I grew up with the 16-bit era. Well, if truth be told I grew up a little before that, but 16-bit was a big gaming time for me. So getting the chance to head back to a bygone time of gaming, one that still very much holds a place in my heart was always going to happen. And for the most part, my time with The Mummy Demastered has been a good one.
But as we all know, gaming from decades past was a tough gig. And both the difficulty and draw of The Mummy Demastered highlights that perfectly.
Anyone who knows me, or has read my previous ramblings on any subject, will know that storytelling, narration and scene setting means very little in my gaming life. In fact, as long as a game runs well, is fun to spend time with, and gives me a sense of achievement at its conclusion, then that’s all I ask. Thankfully WayForward Games have managed to shoe horn all those things in with their 2D, nonlinear, action packed 16-bit adventure. But they’ve also stuck a story in, one that comes about thanks to a recent film – one which tells about ancient evils, the saving of humanity, how a Princess threatens to tear the very fabric of the universe apart and why you have become an elite agent in the monster-hunting Prodigium organization. Whatever that is.
But I’m not here for that, and even though it’s mostly well told, the story definitely plays second fiddle to the rather awesome exploration opportunities found within.
With the 16-bit visual style on display, you won’t ever be wowed by the graphics that The Mummy Demastered comes with, but you will be left acknowledging that WayForward have more than done the job that was intended of them. Well-defined pixelation is the only real way of describing the visuals throughout this atmospheric adventure and even though many a younger gamer will no doubt baulk at the thought of playing something which isn’t totally shiny, for those of a certain vintage (ie, my vintage), much pleasure will be brought. Detail is given where needed, both in your own character – as he happily bobs along to the backing track – and in those who have decided to take the fight your way. Hell, even the areas you’ll find yourself in are varied in design and look, delivering a more than acceptable environment to run through.
The chiptune soundtrack, which your elite agent quite obviously enjoys, has pride of place to help push this adventure along, and goes brilliantly with the style being emitted, ramping up when need be and instilling dread into the soul when you ever manage to stumble upon the numerous big bosses which are in play.
Before you get to those though, The Mummy Demastered will see you making your way though well created screens that work together to form a bigger, wider world full of secrets. Hidden passageways will need to be blown up, a plentiful amount of weird and wonderful enemies will need to be taken down, and much backtracking will ensue as you try to uncover each and every last corner of the Metroidvania style world. Maps will need to be found in special rooms, ammo caches will need visiting on a regular basis and the strange addition of helicopter points will happily act as fast travel moments in time. With Rappel rooms allowing a smooth transition from otherwise dead ends, and the cleverly placed save rooms acting as godsends, your time hunting down the next waypoint and making your way through the madness that the Princess has created will be hugely entertaining.
And that entertainment is non-stop as – like it was back in the day – enemies will respawn every single time you enter a new room. Whilst this can occasionally be frustrating to someone who revels in the modern day way of video games, it does have its positives too – with ammo and health farming right up there with the most important of them. Obviously you’ll not want to be trying any farming in the trickier sections of the game, but should you find a room that is fairly near a save point, preferably one that comes with enemies galore, then you’re pretty much quids in on the ammo and health front.
Ammo collection is a much underrated necessity too, and even though an unlimited amount is in place for your primary weapon, it doesn’t take long before you’ll start finding yourself debating carrying a flamethrower, a faster firing assault rifle or a few grenades alongside it. But these are all limited in firing terms. You’ll need to utilise them though, as even though the multiple types of bog-standard enemies are fairly easy affairs to rid the world of, when you come up against the bigger badder bosses that can happily rid you off your puny life with a single swipe, will find yourself dying time and time again. Learning their patterns of attack is obviously key, but even once you’ve done that, they are no walk in the park.
Thankfully, should/when you die, you respawn back at the latest save room, before readying yourself to go again and hit them harder and faster than ever before. But wait, where are your weapons and upgrades? Well, they are sitting pretty inside a cloned soul-less husk of yourself, and you’ll need to head back to your moment of death in order to kill him off and regain your arsenal of weapons. Fail, and the next time you go back you’ll find a couple of mirror images of yourself ready to take you down once more. It’s a frankly brilliant way of ensuring that whilst death is a big deal, it’s not THE biggest deal and a bit of clever backtracking through the world will see you back to where you were before death took hold.
And that backtracking is an essential part of The Mummy Demastered as even though heading off to regain your weapons is tempting, the path to them won’t necessarily be an easy one. It’s all about weighing up the pros, the cons and whether you have the willpower and energy after a big fight to make it a possibility.
But for the majority of the time, you should you know, because even if you find you need to save things, and take a break from the constant shooting, running, jumping, and ceiling hanging that you’ll be doing in The Mummy Demastered, it won’t be long before the addiction kicks in and you’re back to give that damn sector boss one last going over. If only because the draw of seeing what is around the corner, or hidden away in that darkened part of the map is too big to ignore.
At the end of the day, the 16-bit era was a great time for gaming, but it was an entirely different kettle of fish to what we see on a more regular basis now. That’s not to say you shouldn’t go back and try it out though and The Mummy Demastered is most definitely one of the finest games of recent times to allow us to do just that. It looks great, it plays great and it comes with that one ingredient that always makes for a decent experience – an addictively teasing quality. Yes it’s unforgiving at times, and the constant need to backtrack may just be enough to put many a gamer off, but if you’re one who harks back to the good old days, it is more than worth a bit of your cash and time.