It may just be me, but the Mummy films have never really captivated my interest. Whether it’s because I am immediately turned off by Brendan Fraser’s performance or from the realization that the series is just a younger, newer, and CG-filled knock off of the Indiana Jones franchise, the Mummy films just seems like poorly attempted copies of better works. Don’t even get me started on the horrific Scorpion King spinoffs.
In keeping with tradition, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (TotDE) for the Wii attempts to ape successful franchises such as Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider with little to no success. The game starts off with a whimper as it attempts to bring the player up to speed with a mix of footage from the film and some hand drawn pictures explained by a narrator. The clips from the film are of pretty bad quality and feel like watching a trailer for the film. The only thing missing was a release date or an “in theaters everywhere” tacked onto the end. Unfortunately, this pathetic trailer is also the only video content present from the film. The hand drawn pictures look equally as poor, with no animation whatsoever to attempt to make them slightly more interesting. These still pictures and narration are how the rest of the game’s story is told, complete with awkward transitions from the pictures to actual game environments.
The film and the game both focus on the father and son duo (cough, cough, Crystal Skull, cough, cough) of Rick and Alex O’Connell respectively, trying to stop an ancient evil from becoming immortal and dominating the world. Players will get the chance to play as both of these characters, although they are completely interchangeable. With entirely similar controls, abilities, and weapons, there is very little reason besides the story for having two different characters. There is no switching between characters, which could have been an interesting mechanic if done properly, so you are forced to use whichever character that is directly involved in the level’s story.
The entirety of TotDE’s gameplay is broken up into three aspects. Listed in order from least to most painful, players will need to solve puzzles, complete numerous platforming challenges, and combat a never-ending supply of generic enemies. The game’s many puzzles range from incredibly simple to, well, incredibly simple. Most puzzles require little more than finding the shiny object in a room and following some on-screen instructions. When working on a puzzle, the camera will move into a first-person perspective. You will then be told what gestures you need to perform in order to “solve” the puzzle, as a set of disembodied hands carry out your orders. This is virtually the only use of motion controls found in the game and the recognition is downright atrocious at times.
Platform jumping, which makes up a majority of TotDE’s gameplay, can be entertaining at times but suffers from some major issues. Firstly, these segments are completely linear with only one path to success. Secondly, as a game that has you in all sorts of old tombs and ancient environments, booby traps populate just about every ledge and gap that needs to be traversed. When a building has been untouched for centuries, it is hard to believe that these traps would still be in any kind of working order let alone be constantly running. Expect to get knocked from ledges by random buzz saws, retracting spikes, and best of all, shooting pillars of fire. Lastly, platform jumping is made even more frustrating by the fact that it is frequently difficult to see where to go next. With everything looking fairly similar, ledges in particular are difficult to distinguish from the background.
Combat rounds out this game’s trifecta of terrible gameplay elements with some incredibly repetitive and frustrating fights. Upon walking into almost any room in this game, Rick or Alex will be attacked by hordes of respawning enemies. Players will need to continue to kill these enemies until they eventually just stop coming. Melee attacks are performed by pressing a direction on the D-pad, or holding and releasing a direction for a charged attack. These moves are responsive and work well but seriously lack any form of variety.
Players also are equipped with pistols, a shotgun, and a machinegun that can be fired using the B trigger. You can either shoot in whichever direction you happen to be pointing or you can utilize the Z button to lock onto enemies. This is where the combat completely falls apart, as trying to lock onto a particular enemy is next to impossible. Since many enemies sit safely perched off-screen with guns or other ranged weapons, players will constantly be getting shot by foes that they can’t target until all the others have been dispatched.
TotDE’s frustrating gameplay is only further exacerbated by random spikes in the game’s difficulty. While most players will walk through much of this game with no problem, the game will often become inexplicably difficult. There are two major examples of this that will help explain just how annoying this can be. The first is a segment that has Alex manning a turret, shooting an endless marching army of Terracotta warriors. It is difficult to keep up with destroying these warriors to begin with, yet the game feels the need to also have enemies cheaply sniping at you from off-screen.
The next example is a boss battle involving Alex and the Dragon Emperor, who has turned into a massive creature that resembles a mix between a gargoyle and a dog. This battle is needlessly difficult, requiring memorization and constant movement to avoid attacks, and it is also insanely long. While the entirety of the game may take around four hours to complete, I swear this battle makes up close to a quarter of its completion time. If you are as turned off by the rest of this game as I was, these random jumps in the games difficulty will likely result in putting this title down and never going back to it.
Although the gameplay is often anger inducing, this game’s presentation is fairly good. Characters bear a striking resemblance to their real life counterparts and also include their voice talents (minus Jet Li). Even though these voices can quickly become grating, especially during a particular Alex boss battle, it manages to add a feeling of authenticity to the game. The backdrops and environments look decent, with some good lighting effects accentuating the game’s characters and objects. TotDE also runs very smoothly, with absolutely no frame rate dips to be found.
Unfortunately, it takes more than a slight amount of polish and some good voice work to make a good game. Fans of the film/films may want to check out this game, but I strongly advise you to rent this title rather than purchase it. With frustrating gameplay, a very short and linear experience, and no multiplayer or unlockable modes/levels to speak of, TotDE gives players no reason to keep playing. Perhaps this is for the best and we should just leave this game buried in the deluge of summer movie tie-in titles, as we would a real mummy buried in its sandy grave.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Some good lighting effects and star likenesses help to make this game feel like a part of the film. 2.0 Control
While the combat and platforming controls are passable, locking onto specific enemies is next to impossible, and the included motion controls don’t work well. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
With most of the movies’ cast lending their voices to this game, almost everyone sounds as they should. Unfortunately, these voices will still become annoying once you’ve heard everything they have to say for the hundredth time. 1.6
Random difficulty spikes, mind-numbing puzzles and combat, and infrequent checkpoints culminate in a very short and frustrating experience.
2.0 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.