This game's got potential

The mysteries of Egypt

I have always been fascinated with all things Ancient Egyptian - the Pyramids, the Sphinx and the statues of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel. I have watched TV shows based on Egypt and how the pyramids were made and enjoyed movies such as Stargate and The Mummy with their Egyptian themes. When I heard about an Egyptian-themed game that was being developed, I had to take a look.

Ankh is a typical point-and-click adventure game; based in ancient Egypt around the time the pyramids were being built. The main character, whom you control, is a young Egyptian boy named Assil. The story goes that Assil, the son of a pyramid builder, borrowed the key to the pyramids, threw a wild party, and left the pyramids in a sad state of affairs. As a result, the gods have cursed him. This is where you take over. It is your mission to help poor Assil to lift the curse.

Ankh has been made with a cartoon feel to it (even a comicbook based on the game can be downloaded from the official site), so don?t expect it to be historically accurate. The humour in the game also adds to the comic feel to the game. At times Ankh can be quite funny, although it is not quite in the Monkey Island category of humour. Nonetheless, you will find yourself laughing (or even just smiling to yourself) at some of the dialogue or some of the action sequences.

Have you seen my Mummy?

The game world itself is wonderfully vibrant as you might expect from a game with cartoon-type graphics. There is plenty of colour (although, the game being set in Egypt, much of it is sandy yellow). Some of the objects appear to have a chunky block-type look to them, but this is OK in my books, as it fits in well with the cartoon feel of the game. There are a quite a few locations around Cairo to explore, including the city streets, palaces, the pyramids and even underwater. All the locations are well rendered and add to the overall ancient Egyptian experience with the use of plenty of hieroglyphics. The 3D world also feels alive with the flags moving and the palm trees rustling in the breeze. These details further enhance the feel that you are be cruising down the Nile or visiting the local vendors.

It all sounds Egyptian to me

One of the highlights of the game are the sounds. As mentioned above, the game gives a real Egyptian experience, and this has largely to do with the sounds in the game. The interactive characters are well voiced, although they do not speak Egyptian (or with an Egyptian accent for that matter). It would seem that this has been done on purpose as part of the overall humour package of the game. An example of this was a street vendor who had the characteristic accent of a hot dog vendor at a New York baseball game. The background music continues the Nile experience with pieces that could have come straight out of the movie Stargate.

The riddle of the Sphinx

Being a puzzle based adventure; puzzles and the puzzle solving would have to be one of the most important aspects of a game of this genre. In the case of Ankh, the puzzles are well thought out and seem to work well within the Egyptian theme. Collected items are displayed at the top of screen so your inventory can be seen at all times, making things easier. The objects can be used with each other or applied with other objects by simply drag-and-dropping them wherever required. The puzzles are a little on the harder side and could be a little challenging for a novice, but will be more than welcome for an old-time adventure gamer. Of course, if anyone has trouble with certain parts of the game, the Internet will surely be a helpful place for solving that source of frustration.

Jewel of the Nile?

From what we?ve seen so far, this game has potential, especially due to the fact that fans of the adventure-game genre have had little to celebrate recently. Ankh has a number of other things going for it though. The graphics are splendid and the sound is of a very high standard. The puzzles could be a problem for novices to the genre, but with a bit of luck and trial and error, they can be solved. The other downside to this game, and in fact to many games of this type is the limited playability. I?m not sure how many times you will want to play through to the end of the game. Overall, this game will definitely be worth a look come the release date, especially for fans of the genre. And with the humour in Ankh, this game could be the next Monkey Island type hit.

The English version of Ankh is scheduled for release later in the month (February 2006).