Delving deep into the back catalogue of PS4 games and one thing becomes apparent; there really aren’t that many movie licensed games lurking about. Another fact quickly becomes apparent too; those that do exist aren’t really all that good (sorry The Lego Movie, but it’s true). So it is then that WayForward’s latest venture into the realms of 2D platforming not only bucks that trend with characteristic aplomb, but also delivers one of the best Metroidvania efforts in recent memory, too.
One of the best Metroidvania titles available on PS4
Rather than playing as Tom Cruise’s listless main protagonist from this year’s failed summer tentpole movie, The Mummy Demastered instead improves things by having player filling the jack boots of a faceless soldier goon that belongs to the elite Prodigium, an elite force that has been tasked by Russell Crowe’s character to defend humanity from the creeping evil of titular mummy baddie Princess Ahmanet.
Of course, what this is an all excuse for is some absolutely belting Metroidvania shenanigans and The Mummy Demastered embraces the storied heritage of the genre with the sort of lushly realised, 16-bit retro aesthetic that 2D specialists WayForward have long been known for. With colourful sprite work, an array of graphical effects that wouldn’t look out of place on a Super NES and backgrounds that look like they belong to the same era, WayForward should be commended for crafting a game that in 2017, actually looks, sounds and feels that it belongs in a bygone era that took place a good quarter of a century before, rather than a cheap imitation of it.
More crucially than nailing that audiovisual veneer, The Mummy Demastered nails the essence of the Metroidvania formula; intertwining great enemies, superb level design and, of course, a veritable smorgasbord of items and weapons that allow progression into and beyond previously inaccessible areas. Grenades for example, when collected allow our hero to bust through rickety wooden doors and into new areas, while a harness allows him to rappel down multiple floors without turning himself into pavement pizza.
On a higher level, The Mummy Demastered ultimately just feels right; the platforming looks and feels pixel-perfect while the eight-direction shooting system is a blissfully perfect throwback to the super responsive blasting shenanigans of 2D side-scrolling games from the heyday of the 16-bit consoles (fans of Super Metroid and Contra will not be disappointed).
Speaking of shooting, when it comes to the range of weapons that you can collect, they’re largely an uneven bunch sadly. The flamethrower and heavy assault cannon both sound and feel great, whereas the Mercury Harpoon by comparison is very much the polar opposite; a limp and weak sounding implement of violence that fails to enthral when deployed in battle.
Another knowing nod to the side-scrolling classics from that time is the boss enemies that the Mummy Demastered packs into its six to eight hour duration. Massive, towering sprite creations that are equal parts fury and flair, and which require both skill and patience on that part of the player to not only decipher their attack patterns but also their weak spots too, these looming monstrosities are just one more example of how deeply respectful creators WayForward are of the Metroidvania template.
The Mummy Demastered brings neat twists to an established formula
As clear as The Mummy Demastered pulls from the classics that inform both its look and feel, so too does it also seek inspiration from more contemporary efforts as well. Starting with how the equipment is handled in the game, The Mummy Demastered looks to Bungie’s Halo for inspiration; allowing the player to only carry one main weapon (a reliable, infinite ammo machine gun), a sub weapon (much more damaging weapons that have finite ammo which can be collected from fallen enemies or supply stashes) and one type of grenade. However, the players can chop and change their arsenal according to the enemies that they’re dealing with in that area at the numerous depots dotted around the map, providing The Mummy Remastered with an additional layer of tactical depth that other Metroidvania titles just don’t have.
By far the most interesting way in which WayForward have gone off-piste when it comes to adhering to the Metroidvania formula however, is in how the Californian developer handles the issue of failure; specifically, death. The power of the mummified Princess Ahmanet is substantial, but nowhere are her powers stronger than when she’s lording it over death itself. You see, if you die in The Mummy Demastered, not only do you lose all of your additional gear and extra weapons, but Ahmanet raises your body from the dead and lets it have buckets of fun with all the shiny weapons, skills and abilities you had upon dying.
As you can probably guess, if you want to get all of your gear, skills and upgrades back, you need to fight and kill your undead self in order to do it and in the later sections, where much more difficult enemies tend to surround your undead husk, managing to pull this off can be quite the challenge to say the least. All the same, the inclusion of this wrinkle to the Metroidvania formula is an inspired step by WayForward and is one that definitely sets The Mummy Demastered apart from other efforts in the genre for the better.
In many ways, with its excellent platforming, shooting and progression systems, The Mummy Demastered feels like akin to a spiritual successor to the almost forgotten, though towering brilliant Aliens: Infestation title that WayForward unleashed on the Nintendo DS back in 2011. If there is one significant chink in the armour of The Mummy Demastered though it’s that, unfortunately, there is little to do beyond the game’s singular story mode, even though collecting all the secret artefacts and completing the main six to eight hour campaign provides longevity in sufficient ratio to the cost of the game.
Though licensed games are rare on PS4, it’s rarer still that we encounter one that boasts the heady calibre seen in the Mummy Demastered. With its slavish retro audiovisual aesthetic and remarkably solid Metroidvania fundamentals, WayForward’s latest game not only looks and sounds the part, but it absolutely plays the part too.
Not only does The Mummy Demastered triumph over the odious label of being a licensed title with extremely well executed retro sensibilities, it also expands upon them too; cribbing influence far and wide from games such as Dark Souls and even, dare we say it, Bungie’s Halo. As it stands, this is the most essential Metroidvania title on PS4 since Rogue Legacy.