Metroidvania is a genre that gets tossed around a lot. So much so that just about any action platform that comes out gets the label. In the sea of indie games coming out lately earning that title, The Mummy Demastered rightfully claims its spot among the other greats in the genre like Axiom Verge and Cave Story. Developed and published by WayForward (the creators of the Shantae series), The Mummy Demastered is a tie in game to the 2017 film, The Mummy starring Tom Cruise. Yes, you heard me right, a movie tie in game, but this one is special because not only did Universal ask an indie developer to make the title, it was also developed as a 16-bit Metriodvania style game.
This is not your typical low quality movie game. In fact, the game doesn’t even have Tom Cruise, the main character of the movie, in it. Instead, you play as an ambiguous solider only known as Prodigium who is part of a monster hunting organization set out to destroy Princess Ahmanet and her hordes of plagues she released upon the world. The story is pretty straight forward, but not at all the focus of this game. In the eight hours it took me to beat the game, not once did I think about the story. The gameplay is the star of The Mummy Demastered. I thought at first it would be more akin to Metroid, but I was very wrong. This side scrolling shooter is like a mix of Castlevania and Contra, and the shooting feels really satisfying with bullet hell sections and explosions everywhere. The platforming is solid and there are several traversal upgrades to collect that add to it. As you traverse through several different regions of the games map, you come across many different giant insects and undead enemies. There are also five large boss encounters in the game that you get to fight and each one is pretty different ranging from a giant spider to a straight up giant sewer crocodile! To fight all of the hordes set forth by Princess Ahmanet, you will be able to collect several different guns and grenades including my personal favorite, the plasma rifle! Between the hordes of enemies you fight and environmental hazards like spikes and pools of acid, you will experience a death once or twice, or 33 times, but who’s counting?
This brings me to my favorite thing about the game, which is also the one thing that frustrated me the most- The death mechanics. The death mechanics of this game are so awesome and yet so insanely brutal. If you should fall in battle, you will be sent to the last save point you saved at. Sounds simple enough, right? Well it would be, except your corpse then reanimates and now has all of the weapon and health upgrades you earned. Being a soldier with no name, they simply send in a new one, and the one you played as before is now waiting where you died to fight you. That’s right, you now have to fight your powered up old body to gain your gear back with only 99 health and the main weapon you started the game with. It’s in the vain of Dark Souls, if your souls fought back. The concept is awesome but the execution wasn’t the greatest and is the games biggest hinderance. It becomes very difficult to get you gear back when every time you die, another corpse is waiting there to fight you in addition to the hordes of enemies that respawn the second you exit the room. The more corpses that gather there, the slower the game runs. There is unfortunately some slow down in the game and it gets really bad if you die a lot in the same area. The bodies pile up and with everything on the screen, the game starts to lag pretty bad. After you reclaim your gear you do not regain full health and ammo, leaving you to grind to get back to full. This can be very tedious as health drops are not plentiful in the game. This also happens if you die during boss fights, which is super frustrating considering that means you are expected to learn and adapt to beat a boss first try or face the consequences. This is one major gripe I have with the game, which is funny considering it is what drew me to the game and I still feel like it is a major selling point. The death mechanics of The Mummy Demastered is so unique and inspiring that I can’t help but love it, even though it made me very angry and felt unfair at times.
The presentation of the game is beautiful and the graphics are like a more advanced Super Nintendo game. There are lots of little details to appreciate such as bullets from your gun hitting the ground and the chopper moving the grass and kicking up dust when it lands. While the boss fights are epic and beautiful to look at, the music in is nothing to write home about, but it does add to the creepy tone of games like Metroid. Overall, none of the tracks are memorable, but it was fitting for the game.
So is this game worth the price of admission? The short answer is, yes. It’s good overall and I did enjoy my time with it, but the death system might scare some people off. There are some bugs and slowdown in the game, but they were few and far between. One bug that I did end up experiencing actually made the ending pretty anti-climatic, but it was silly enough to not hinder my fun. For $20 I feel like you can’t go wrong if you like games like Contra or Castlevania.
Played on Nintendo Switch in handheld mode
By: Nathan Klebe