Death is only the beginning of this mediocre adventure.
On paper, The Mummy Demastered is a brilliant concept. Using the husk of the (probably failed) cinematic universe-starting Mummy reboot, this downloadable game from WayForward adopts a retro 16-bit style that draws inspiration from Metroid and Castlevania to create an exploration-focused adventure that is reminiscent of intriguing licensed games of yore. However, an emphasis on pinpoint precision and an annoying death mechanic helps make this Mummy more in line with the failed Tom Cruise reboot than the franchise’s successful past.
While Demastered firmly plants itself in the same universe as the 2017 movie, no knowledge is needed to dive in. The basics: you’re an agent of monster-hunting Prodigium trying to track down the villainous mummy Princess Ahmanet. Your adventure takes you to many different locales in London, including caves, underground subways, and more. It hits on a lot of the Metroid/Castlevania tropes. You get an elementary speed boost. You find a higher jump midway through. Even the design of the map is in the same vein as those genre stalwarts. The graphics are filled with excellent pixel art, complemented by a moody retro-tinged score.
Demastered is challenging, but not necessarily in the right ways. Enemies do a lot of damage, or at least they do a lot of damage compared to the health you find along the way. Most of the platforming requires impeccable timing and precision. Don’t time a jump perfectly? Get used to having to redo sections, sometimes lengthy ones, very regularly.
The novel twist here is that when you die, your character becomes possessed by Ahmanet. So, in order to regain all of your gear, you have to go and defeat this former you. Depending on when it happens, you could be in an almost unfairly tough spot. Considering death generally happens in difficult areas, having to roll into an area with less health and weaponry to defeat a dude with a flamethrower and grenades surrounded by tough enemies isn’t really that great of a time. When you die during bosses, you just respawn in the room before, which is more palpable. However, defeating that old you won’t net you full health and ammo. At a certain point, I just started resetting when I knew I wouldn't beat a boss because the act of defeating my past self and making sure my ammo and health was refilled became too punitive and annoying. The central conceit of this death concept is cool, but I can't think of a moment in the game where it was fun in practice.
To try to make your downed heroes less overpowering when you have to fight them, you can only hold two guns and a grenade type at one time. The different weaponry is fun, giving you everything from traditional fare like a rapid-fire machine gun and a shotgun to crazier stuff like a flamethrower and a harpoon gun. The power-up abilities are otherwise humdrum traversal boosts. You can jump higher or grab onto the ceiling, but nothing ever really feels that empowering or game-changing.
Late in the game, I ran into recurring slowdown whenever too much action started happening on the screen, regularly triggered by too many bullets being on the screen at once. Despite reaching the end, I’ve also never actually experienced the final boss as intended because every time I’ve gone into the battle, the boss freezes part of the way through and stops attacking, letting me spam my gun until it falls. The technical issues are an unfortunate bad-tasting cherry on top of a middling cupcake.
Even in the face of it's most frustrating elements, The Mummy Demastered isn’t a bad game. It’s just disappointing, more reminiscent of WayForward’s okay past licensed work than any of their more transcendent Shantae games. With a credits-rolling completion lasting about five hours, this game thankfully doesn’t overstay its welcome, but irritation is a regular occurrence along the way. This has way more in common with the reboot it's tied to than we all hoped.