How Metroidvania is it? High Fit. Progression is slightly linear for a good portion of the game, but there's plenty of relevant exploration in the final act to justify a high fit.
Primary Challenge: Ranged Combat
Time to beat: ~5 hours
Review Info: The Mummy Demastered was played using the Steam version
Buy The Mummy Demastered if you like…
- Run and gun combat
- Spooky iconic monsters
- Narrative death mechanics
- Progressively evolving monster encounters
- Challenging Bosses
▼ Review continues below ▼
Three years ago, Universal Studios marketed The Mummy as the first movie in their new Dark Universe franchise. That Dark Universe ended up being nothing more than a pipe dream thanks to the incredibly poor reception of that movie. During that more hopeful time though, they licensed the rights to WayForward to create this video game tie-in, The Mummy Demastered. Licensed games have historically had a bad reputation for quality, and being connected to a failed movie only exacerbates that perception. In an ironic twist of fate however, WayForward still managed to show off their years of experience and put forth a very solid game.
You play as a soldier in the Prodigium, which was the Dark Universe’s monster hunting army. The game starts out with a pretty good hook, where you investigate an ancient tomb and accidentally awaken the titular Mummy who begins wrecking the place and you have to escape. You chase the Mummy to the grand Metroidvania location you’ll be spending the rest of the game in, and for about an hour the game feels perhaps a little too straight forward. During this time, the momentum of that initial hook dissipates completely. Expect to spend a little while simply checking the boxes of “good Metroidvania design” before you arrive at anything that’s truly unique or interesting. Part of the issue with this early game is related to the game’s licensing. Your commanding officer Dr. Henry Jekyll isn’t given any screen time to establish his character, and thus he comes across as a bland cliche serving only the purpose of directing you to your next objective. The Mummy herself is nothing more than a mustache-twirling villain, and your main protagonist is equally generic. I feel WayForward did the best they could with what they had, but the experience is held back by not having more personality. Thankfully the plot isn’t the only thing that can carry a video game.
The early game’s other issue is that it feels a little too easy. Even though the game doesn’t generously heal you to full like many other modern Metroidvania titles, I still managed to avoid dying until I reached the game’s second major boss fight. This made me pretty bored from the outset, and the aforementioned problems with the game’s narrative didn’t give me much faith that things would improve. In reality, the difficulty curve is actually pretty normal, and as I started to feel that difficulty ramping, some of the game’s more clever design decisions became apparent to me.
It turns out that having a generic soldier as a main character was wholly intentional, because you don’t just control a single soldier in this game. You control an entire army. When you die, the character you were playing is permanently dead, and thanks to the persistent dark magic affecting the area that character immediately rises up as a zombie soldier. You’re then given control over another faceless soldier and are commanded by Dr. Jekyll to continue the mission. However, keeping with the theming you have none of the equipment that the previous soldier had – including none of the movement upgrades you need to progress the game. In a pseudo souls-like fashion, your first order of business after dying is then taking on your old self using only the default weapon and having only the base HP, while zombie-you is able to attack you with whatever weapon you were equipped with when you died. Since the thing you have to fight is a brainless zombie, this task is usually nothing more than a neat formality. If you happened to have had the rocket launcher selected during that last boss fight, suddenly you’re looking at a much more dangerous opponent. You can’t ever permanently lose your stuff, but you can create a room full of zombies if you fail to retrieve the gear over and over. While you get nothing more than an achievement if you manage to complete the game without dying once, the mechanic did make me want to preserve my character more if only to avoid confronting myself. The idea of playing multiple protagonists is a great way to canonize player deaths, and while this isn’t the first time I’ve seen it, it adds a lot of flavor to the game.
The gameplay itself is sort of like if you combined run-and-gun games like Metal Slug or Contra with Castlevania. The long straight hallways that tend to be more of a slog in the Igavania titles work well with this design, especially as you gather more ammo packs and can be more reckless with your approach. Enemies are placed to be just enough in the way that dispatching them as you move is the only way to get through areas quickly. With your default gun you can find safe places to stand and avoid most of the danger, but to do so would be more tedious than it’s worth. Thanks to the abundance of ammo drops and places to refill your supplies, you’re clearly encouraged to use whatever means available to you to get to where you need to be. The ammo system thus ends up being more about emphasizing some semblance of precision rather than balancing your power.
I mention long hallways, but The Mummy Demastered also has fairly good verticality as well. The level design therefore doesn’t feel bloated or unnecessarily padded. It’s also not so huge that backtracking is a major bother – on the contrary returning to earlier areas to look for goodies is as fun as it ever is. The map system follows a fairly direct formula, so for anything that actually affects your gameplay you’re not going to find it tucked away in a hidden block or up in an alcove. Every meaningful upgrade has its own block in the map’s grid, so predicting where you might find secret passageways isn’t as much of a challenge as it is actually accessing them once you get there. Thanks to the ever escalating difficulty curve you’re going to want to find every upgrade you can and learn the ins and outs of every weapon to be successful. Therefore exploration is wholly worth it, and equally as fun to do. Besides the normal upgrades there are also achievement-only relics you can find hidden in boxes or alcoves that encourage you to check every corner, but these are completely optional.
While the general gameplay retains the satisfying loop that we Metroidvania fans crave, the bosses were the biggest highlight for me. Every single one of them has a unique gimmick that makes them a sort of action puzzle to solve. The first boss was perhaps a little too easy, as I mentioned earlier, but the rest of the roster more than makes up for this. You generally can’t just find a good nook to snipe the boss from, because they figure out your shenanigans pretty quickly. Most of your weapon options are fully automatic though, so finding a place to anchor yourself so you can hold the aim button and fire is a major factor in planning your strategy. Taking some time to watch what the boss is doing and how they react to your attacks – basically becoming intimately familiar with them – is the only way to identify the best places to stand. Once you have control of the situation, you can enjoy that satisfying feeling of ducking out of the way just in time while still delivering your own devastating retaliation. Figuring out each boss’ patterns, what weapon loadout is the best to use on them, and having to reclaim your gear every time you fail made each one of the bosses memorable.
It’s really interesting to watch a company like WayForward take straw and spin it into gold like they did with The Mummy Demastered. While it’s not necessarily a masterpiece, it’s still unique enough to keep it from being simple bog standard stuff, and in my opinion it sits above the average for games of its kind in general. It’s certainly better than it deserves to be considering the source material. The most unfortunate thing about The Mummy Demastered is that after about 5-7 hours of gameplay, there really isn’t that much left to do unless you want to try for that no-death run. Nevertheless it’s a great overall experience, and it’s better to have a tightly designed game than one that’s padded just to extend its runtime. If you enjoy run-and-gun games and the Metroidvania genre, then this game will likely be a satisfying purchase for you.
Bosses truly put your positioning and gunplay skills to the test. Level design remains interesting even when congested with monsters
Traversal Style platforming not intended to be a primary challenge.
As the world opens up there are many rewarding secrets to discover
Not a focus
Very straight forward ''stop the ghoulie'' plot. The theming is a weaker part of the game.
Gorgeous Pixel Art as we've come to expect from WayForward
Strong atmospheric music matching the spooky setting.
There's an achievement for beating the game without dying, but not much to change the experience other than that.