|System: Wii, PS2, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: A2M||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sierra Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 22, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor for the DS is based on the blockbuster movie of the same name. The problem is that the movie is a visually intense action thriller. The game just can't live up to it, and doesn't. It doesn't stand a chance on a handheld, simply due to the lack of processing power. In such a case, it's almost unfair to compare it to the movie, but it seems that it's what the powers-that-be wanted.
They could have simply changed the name to something like The Mummy: Dragon's Revenge, or something similar. Then the developers could focus the gameplay on what the system does best such as puzzle solving and platforming; something to supplement the movie, not replicate it. It's this attempt to turn the game into an interactive movie that sees it fail miserably. The game has some decent elements, but there's nothing original in terms of gameplay. It's obviously forced to tie-in with the cutscenes that are based on the movie, and in this case, it's like forcing a square peg into a round hole.
A simplified action/adventure game, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor contains elements of platforming, puzzle solving, and combat. It could be said that it's little more than a basic Tomb Raider-style game. A lot of the game consists of finding ways to get in and out of various tombs, while dealing with the various enemies, traps, and obstacles that you'll find in your way. There is a lot of box moving and switch flipping, as you attempt to reach higher platforms to locate special switches that will open secret passageways. You will also find an assortment of Chinese-style hieroglyphics that you'll jot down in your notebook, which will come in handy later for code breaking that will give you access to doors and other passageways. It's a slightly interesting concept, but it requires that you have your pen filled with ink all of the time, which is little more than padded busy-work. Overall, the gameplay elements become redundant quickly. And then there's the combat.
Fighting and shooting is a main staple of the game, as you defend yourself against hordes of enemies, which all the look the same. In an effort to simplify things, there is only one combat button. That's easy enough, but the D-pad is not responsive or accurate enough when you are flanked by enemies. Positioning your character to face each enemy is crucial for the collision detection system to trigger properly. It's not very forgiving and you'll have to spin your character around as fast as possible and stop at the exact spot to deliver your attack. If you over or undershoot the perfect position, you're going to take some hits. This, of course, will require that you top up your health, but the game won't let you out of some stages until you've killed a specified number of enemies. Another problem is the relatively small character models that are difficult to see. The camera gives you a semi-isometric perspective and tries to fit too much of the environment on the screen at one time. This relatively wide-shot should be tightened, even at the expense of not being able to see some of the enemies lurking in the wings.
To extend what is essentially a short game, other questionable challenges have been implemented such as time limits. Some stages will require that you complete certain challenges within a give time limit. Of course, the average player will require several attempts to complete these tasks, thereby artificially increasing the length of the game. Arguably, these additions make the game more challenging, but I prefer to use the word "frustrating."