The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
There’s been a recent surge of family adventure films this year; Indiana Jones, National Treasure and Journey to the Centre of the Earth to name but a few. Along with The Mummy – unless by some miracle its quality is higher than anticipated – all these films share a similar, ‘so bad, they’re good’ aphorism. No matter how outlandish (alien space ships anyone?) they get, there is always a small part of you that is having some kind of fun – even if for reasons not intended. This motto really can’t be applied to videogames, perhaps due to the increased sense of immersion, but regardless, a bad game is a bad game and no number of silly set pieces, or pilfered ideas from other classic titles can change that.
Don’t let the front cover and different characters fool you, this game wants nothing more than to be Tomb Raider. From the visual direction (one level has you in a snowy environment shooting dogs with pistols), to the actual gameplay, the similarities are startling. The only problem is that The Mummy feels like a watered down version in every aspect imaginable; the climbing synonymous with the feisty female action heroine are at times a complete nightmare thanks to the imprecise controls, poor collision detection and the vagueness of where players actually have to be moving – making a lot of sections a strictly stop-start, trial-and-error affair.
The other game-ruining component that makes up The Mummy is the combat. The game is a combination of shooting and hand-to-hand encounters, if severely imbalanced in favour of the former. Fighting is annoyingly inaccurate and soon becomes completely redundant when you have enough bullets to lay waste to the many, many identical thugs that lay ahead in any place during the level that resembles an arena. And proclaiming the hand-to-hand combat superfluous is not even remotely close to being a compliment towards the shooting mechanics; they’re awful. The lock on system is totally broken, and the last thing a player doesn’t need going against them when dealing with a poor lock-on system is an equally dire camera. It goes where it wants, when it wants and will more often than not point you in the way of a glass cabinet in favour of the machete-wielding brute sneaking up behind you.
Which leads me to the game’s biggest problem – the difficulty. Not so much a curve as more a wall, The Mummy will have sections that are incredibly simple and tedious, only straight after to present players with hair pulling moments that will have you leaving the room in disgust – until you realise that you can’t actually save at any point during the level, to which you’ll trudge back to where you left off. Now difficulty is fine when it’s down to a player’s ineptitude , but it’s just not acceptable that a player must be made to suffer for bad game design. Especially when you take into account that this title is catered more towards the younger age demographic.
If The Mummy succeeds in any way – anywhere – it’s the puzzles. They’re hardly the most challenging or complex but they work and never frustrate which is a Godsend when taken into context. And despite the fact that these were blatantly made for the Nintendo Wii’s controller, the analogue sticks function well enough; even if it is just pulling down to open a door. It’s also very solid visually; the environments are at least varied enough to stop the descent into complete monotony, and the character models of Brendan Fraser et al (voiced by the actual actors – begrudgingly if their tonality is anything to go by) are nicely detailed.
However, anything that could come close to being a positive is crushed under the almighty weight of everything else. It’s nothing more than a movie licensed game out to leech off the inevitable success of a probably equally terrible film. There is no way anyone can justify buying this when Tomb Raider: Anniversary can be bought for a third of the price.