Ankh if You Like to Laugh
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You may have noticed, but I'm a bit of a nostalgia freak. I like a lot of older things (cough, cough, Civ II), and harken back to the glory days of yesteryear. Sometimes I long for the days of irreverent comical adventure games, games where setting up the horrible pun is almost as important as furthering the story.
Thank God they still make games like Ankh.
Ankh tells the tale of Assil, son of the Pharaoh's chief architect. He and his friends sneak into one of the pyramids his father had built, and through a humorous set of circumstances manages to get a mummy's curse laid upon him. The physical effect of the curse is an ever-enlarging tattoo that starts on his arm, but works its way across his body from there.
He also picks up an elaborate ankh (Egyptian symbol of life), which he had mistaken for a beer bottle opener. And all of this happens in the opening cut-scene.
So Assil's mission as he wakes up in his room the next morning is to reverse the curse (just like it says on the box). But first his father has grounded him for his shenanigans, and he has got to get out of his room without using the front door.
This can be prove to be a challenge, as you have to make sure you click on everything. And the first obstacle is to get used to the fact that the left mouse button usually has Assil 'look' or 'examine' something, and the right mouse button has him 'use' or 'take' it, whichever is applicable or possible. The cursor will change to indicate which action is possible, but you still have to remember to click the right button and not the left. It is quite confusing at first, but once you get used to it"okay you never really get used to it, but it becomes less annoying after a while.
Your inventory is visible on the top of the screen, and right-clicking will allow you use it on something in the scene or combine it with another item. Some of the items that need combining to overcome obstacles in the game involve some fuzzy logic or humor, so keep that in mind when you are trying stuff out. Fortunately, very little you can do in the game will screw you up irrevocably, and some of the 'wrong' results are quite funny, so you might as well try everything.
The 3D graphics are very pretty to look at. The characters, although cartoony in style with huge caricatures for heads, are well drawn, and interact with their environment very well. The problem with this environment, however, is the chance that you will miss something that you need to click on is increased, so you will have to keep an Eye of Horus out for these tidbits. Also, the 'camera angle' may change significantly as you go from scene to scene, so if you click twice on an exit you may end up going back the way you came as soon as the new scene loads. It doesn't happen often, but often enough that I felt I should mention it.
The American voice acting is great for this game. Sure, they tend to ham it up a bit, but that is a good thing for this type of game. They are all lively, and anything but the stale performances that come out in some games. The music is all through this game, changing theme as Assil travels from place to place. We are even treated to a catchy original song as the opening movie begins, 'performed' by various characters Assil will meet in his travels.
Now, most people would take this game at face value, and enjoy it at a moderate level, but not me. No, I couldn't help but think that this game's humor reminded me so much of the famed Monkey Island series by LucasArts, that there was some kind of connection.
When one of the characters in Ankh mentioned someone named Guy al'Brusha, I knew it had to be so. A little digging proved me right. Although they seem to have forgone a box credit, Telltale Games apparently had advised Deck 13 on storyline and character development. And Telltale games was founded by many of the people that used to form the development team of, you guessed it, LucasArts. It is apparent that they had much influence on the humor of the game. How about that: my detective skills, honed by playing this type of game, paid off in the real world.
Regardless of who is taking credit for it, Ankh is a fine and funny game, well deserving of the 4 GiN gems I gave it. If you want a good laugh, or fondly remember the days of LucasArts humor, you will love this game.
Greg Crowe is Game Industry News Features Editor. Due to his established history of having played every game in the universe he is uniquely qualified to evaluate games based on playability, innovation and place in history. You can contact him at : firstname.lastname@example.org.