There was a time when there were licensed games for any and every movie that came out. The Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis days especially were littered with versions of everything from Judge Dredd to The Lion King. Some were good, many of them were bad, or just somewhere in between. When it was announced that there was a game coming out based on the Tom Cruise Mummy reboot, I barely thought twice about it. Then I noticed that WayForward, makers of the excellent Aliens: Infestation and the Shantae series, were behind it, and then I took note of it. I’m glad that I did, because surprisingly, The Mummy Demastered is a very good metroidvania game.
I suppose that metroidvania shouldn’t really be the term here, because there are also Contra influences, so metroidcontravania seems a bit more fitting, even if it sounds a little ridiculous. The game has a side-scrolling, open map like a Metroid game, where you are locked into one area, until you get upgrades or beat a boss. There are also plenty of monsters: flying bats and rats, and other creatures that will fire of plenty of bones and fireballs at you as you try and jump from platform to platform, just like old Castlevania games. The Contra influence is seen in the gunplay. You start off with a standard automatic rifle with unlimited ammo. Then you pick up other weapons and ammo upgrades, grenades, etc, but you’ll basically have your finger on the trigger the whole time just firing away at anything and everything. With all of these parts, WayForward has created a brutal yet charming whole that pays homage to these titles while making an experience all its own.
The story for The Mummy Demastered is fairly straightforward. Instead of focusing on Tom Cruise’s character from the Mummy movie, you play as a nameless Prodigum agent. You are tasked by the Henry Jekyll character from the movie to go and investigate the initial tomb, but after the opening scene, you move on to new environments and locations. The story exists just enough to get you from location to location as you take on Ahmanet and all the creepy little creatures that want to make your life difficult. Not being totally tied to the movie is great though, because you don’t really need to be familiar with the film to be able to get into the old school running and gunning present in The Mummy Demastered.
The controls in the game are very tight for the most part, especially within its platforming. Your agents’ movement and jumping are very responsive, and traversing platforms handles just as well as you’d want it to. My biggest issue was with the shooting, where you are only able to fire in one of eight directions, much like the Contra games of old. This isn’t the issue so much as you can’t lock your direction without fully locking down your agent. Super Metroid handled this well where you can lock diagonally-up, or up, diagonally-down and keep moving. I found myself more than a few times in a situation where I had wished I could move and lock and shoot, but would end up getting hit due to the inability to lock and move. In the end, it’s not a total deal breaker but something that would have been nice to do. You can lock to shoot, but you are locked in place and then you can shoot up, or diagonally, and so forth, which is good especially for bosses when you need to just unload into them.
One of the more interesting mechanics that WayForward returns to use here involves death. Due to the fact that you are playing as a nameless Prodigum agent, if you are to die, well you can easily be replaced. You see, when you die, your body is raised from the grave, and still holds most of the weapons and upgrades that you had. You will spawn in as a new agent, but you need to track down your old zombie self, and fight it to get back all the gear that you had. Sometimes this can be a pretty big pain, but it adds to the challenge of the game and it helped me to think twice about pushing too far into areas if I knew that I was probably going to die and would have to work to get all my stuff back.
The visual style of the game is very much a throwback to the 16-bit side-scrolling classics, and WayForward use all their best talent to create a great and atmospheric world. There is a good variety in the environments, from forests, to castles and caves. What would typically be seen as mere tropes of the side-scrolling genre, they look fresh and new thanks to WayForward’s talented artists. The animations of the agents and especially some of the bosses look fantastic, and are all very fluid and look topnotch as far as a 16-bit game goes. My personal favourite part of the game is easily the soundtrack. It’s a chiptune soundtrack to be sure, but it evokes the lower tones found in old John Carpenter synth pieces more than it does some traditional gaming soundtracks. Another comparison would be the Stranger Things soundtrack, which a couple of the tracks reminded me of as I played through. This made me enjoy it even more.
The Mummy Demastered is an excellent throwback to the metroidcontravania days of old. The game is tough, but not too tough, the controls are fantastic, and the visual and audio aesthetics are perfect. There may not be a ton of replayability in the game, but it is still a great adventure to take. Definitely do not write off The Mummy Demastered as just another licensed game; for a game about mummies, monsters and zombies, it definitely has got a lot of soul.
The Mummy Demastered was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with a digital copy of the game.