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Low-key tomb escape, irritating to play online, December 12, 2020
Tombs and Mummies is a cheerfully deadly escape-the-deathtrap affair; with nine rooms and really only a single puzzle, it falls well short of the two-hour advertised game length but that seems about right for what’s on offer here. It doesn’t look like there’s a play-offline option and unfortunately server woes made this an occasionally-frustrating experience, but viewed on its own merits this is a fun little game that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Right, the setup: you’re an archaeologist, your rival has kidnapped your girlfriend and locked you in a tomb to die, and you need to escape to make him pay – and, er, loot some priceless pieces of Egypt’s cultural heritage along the way if you’re so inclined. This is all in Quest, and has a bunch of niceties like a map and clickable ways of interacting with objects and scenery, though I mostly eschewed them in favor of using the parser like a Neanderthal. The tomb boasts some authentic touches, including a sistrum and a senet set among the treasures in the mummy’s hoard, but also includes magic words such as “open sesame” and descriptions that reference the Who and Blade Runner.
There are very light RPG and resource management elements – you have a limited amount of light, and hit points that can be depleted by traps, snakes, and other hazards, but given how short the game is, if either run low or run out restarting isn’t much of a penalty (I think a winning playthrough would take two or three minutes at most once you know what to do).
Despite what the premise might make you think, you’re just worrying about the escape – tracking down the rival and making him pay takes place post-victory – which involves a multi-step puzzle to allow you to get up to the ceiling-hatch leading out of the tomb. The steps are pretty simple to work through, though I’m not sure they’re exactly intuitive. Tombs and Mummies offers two magic spells to its players; one a simple door-opener, the other one of the most esoteric enchantments I’ve ever come across, since it (Spoiler - click to show)makes heavy objects light while also causing mummies to awaken and try to kill you – that’s good only for a very specific set of use cases! I solved the major element of the puzzle pretty much by accident, succeeding because I was able to just input a command describing what I wanted to do without having to describe how I’d do it (Spoiler - click to show) (I don’t think I’d have guessed that I could jam the sarcophagus lid closed with the flail of Anubis, but so long as you’re carrying the right object LOCK LID appears to work). And I didn’t really understand how the “indirect light” thing worked, but it is spelled out for you in the notebook so I suppose that doesn’t really matter. At any rate, the limited map, verbs, and number of objects means trial-and-error will get you through.
I’d have enjoyed the game far more if I hadn’t had to play it online, though. I experienced a lot of lag – maybe 3 or 4 seconds after each command – as well as two or three crashes in the course of my half hour with the game. There are also some real-time elements, like snakes that will repeatedly nibble on you if you take too long to take an action. Plus some common activities, like making sure your torch stays lit, are rather fiddly and take more commands than you’d think. So these elements combined with the lag and crashes make for a bit of aggravation. Hopefully the server was just having a bad day, but still, a downloadable option would make the game much more accessible.