Gadgetorama reviews Curse of the Pharaohs by Just Mobile Games

 

Introduction

You are Harold Huxley, an English archeologist who has crossed paths with the Cult of Anubis. Only your exploration, problem solving and fighting skills will keep you alive as you explore Egyptian ruins and their nearby surroundings. Plenty of treasure awaits but only if you risk life and limb in your quest.

Curse of the Pharaohs
Figure 1: About to get started

Curse of the Pharaohs is the debut game from Just Mobile Games and it promises a blend of platform action, some roleplaying, some puzzle solving and a lot of very angry mummies, venomous snakes and killer bees.

Installation

Installation is very straightforward. Run the executable file and follow the prompts. I am running the game from my CF card with absolutely no issues. When you buy the game, you will need to register the game. Like the installation itself, it is a very straightforward process where you simply fill in the registration information provided to you.

The game uses up about 2.3 MB of free storage. Requirements from the Just Mobile Games web site also include 32Mb RAM (16Mb program memory) and either a 12 bit or 16 bit colour display.

Time to slay some mummies

The first level is a training level that introduces you to all the skills that you will need in the game. From jumping, digging through sand, fighting with the various henchmen and henchthings of Anubis, pushing and pulling rock slabs, using dynamite, you’ll find that there is plenty to learn.

Once you complete this level, it’s time for the serious exploration to begin. The game comes with 30 levels. Each is quite large and will keep you busy for a while (especially as you work through some of the puzzles). You will not get through this game in a couple of gaming sessions.

The game combines a lot of different genres. First and foremost, it is a platform game where you need to climb, jump your way through sometimes complex obstacles and deal with a variety of the Pharaoh’s evil henchthings. It also includes some puzzle solving – How do you get into that room or what does this lever do? Finally, there is a role-playing aspect where you gain experience points by killing monsters. You also must manage your inventory carefully. There is nothing worse than running out of ammunition with four or five mummies shambling towards you because you decided to stock up on first aid kits instead.

Another wrinkle in the game is the Pharaoh’s Curse. When you get cursed, you will have a limited amount of time to complete a small quest (finding the pieces of an amulet and then finding water) or you will die a painful death.

So, why are you exploring and risking your neck? How else will you find all the hidden treasures that will make you rich and famous? Treasure is often hidden – Will the sarcophagii reveal their secrets to you? Do the skeletons (less fortunate explorers, I wonder) still have a few much needed bullets. And every once in a while, you will find a key that opens up locked doors. You will also want to look for the Stone Tablets as they will reveal secrets to you. Hidden levels will be unlocked if you find sufficient tablets and details of the storyline will also be revealed as you explore. Other treasures you collect will let you trade them in and buy new equipment at the market that you will have a chance to visit between some levels.

While a lot of equipment can be found as you explore, the market will give you a chance to turn your treasure into new supplies, including upgrades. How about a sword instead of the machete you start out with? Or that very cool shotgun that should help send the undead back to their graves? I experienced a problem in the market area. Some of the prices were replaced by gibberish characters. I could still buy the items but I could not easily tell how much they cost until I had selected them.

Exploring a level A new development
Figure 2: Still lost in some caves Figure 3: A new development

The levels get progressively more difficult – not necessarily just more monsters but tougher puzzles and more complex layouts. The ability to dig through sand and use that sand to create new blocks is key to solving many of these challenges. It may also be necessary to push stone blocks around or blow holes in walls. Fortunately, many levels can be solved in more than one way and you don’t always have to explore an entire level to get to the next one.

COTP allows you to save as often as you want and wherever you are in the level. But I have one suggestion. Remember the Pharaoh’s Curse? Don’t save while you are cursed (unless you have another pre-curse backup). If you find that you forgot something back at an earlier point in the stage, you may not have enough time to get it before the curse kills you. And restarting a level can be a laborious process (I did warn you that these levels are big). You have 3 save slots and an additional auto-save slot.

Some tools you use in COTP will also wear down. For example, your machete will wear down and eventually break as you use it to deal with all those nasty monsters. And hit stone with it and you’ll find that it wears down even faster. It does force you to take a more careful approach. And you can only carried limited amounts of supplies: You will find that you can only carry so much ammunition and so many first aid kits.

A help file is also available. It covers much of the basics (the first level is way more fun than reading the help file though). Unfortunately, all the graphics in it are broken (It happens with Windows Mobile 2003 and Just Mobile Games is looking into this).

Graphics, Sounds and Music

The game looks great! The animations are smooth and the graphics are quite detailed. A lot of work went into them and it shows. For example, look at the bottom left at your picture. Look at it again when you get cursed! And when you die. It’s a small touch but it shows the attention to detail.

The game warns of some gore and violence but compared to what you see in some games today, it’s pretty innocent. Fall too far and you’ll end up ‘splatting’ in a pool of blood. Snakes turn to bloodied pulps and mummies fall apart. It’s more cartoonish violence than anything.

There is a wealth of sounds that complement almost every action in the game. For example, you’ll know when your machete strikes rock and you’ll hear gears grind when you pull levers. On the other hand, there is not much music in the game (not that you will miss it). Only the introductory screens are accompanied by music. Plunge into the game and it will be you and the sounds of your surroundings.

Controls

Game control is through the d-pad and three buttons. You will need an Action/Select button, a Jump/Grab button and an Inventory button (also available by tapping the screen). These are customizable as are the up/down/left and right controls.

Level summary
Figure 4: Level summary

I had no issues (beyond the usual d-pad frustrations). If you are used to the d-pad and how it behaves, you’ll find no surprises with this game.

You also have control over the game brightness as well as sound effect and music volumes.

What I liked

  • A good balance between too easy and too hard
  • Ability to save at any point on a level

What I did not like

Usually, this is an easy section to fill out – there are always 3 or 4 nitpicks. Not this time, I’m really reaching with the list below.

  • Prices do not show up correctly on some items in the market
  • Map feature is great but a zoom would be nice – Some details are hard to see
  • Web site promises some walkthroughs but they have not been posted yet (you’re on your own or if you get really stuck, email Just Mobile Games and they’ll help you out!)

Summary

How good is this game? Well, my review is done and I’m still playing it. If you enjoy platform games, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. Its ability to combine elements from other styles of games introduces new wrinkles into the genre and definitely makes it an addictive way to kill time.

If COTP is a taste of things to come from Just Mobile Games, then this is one game designer I will be keeping my eyes on!

Now, it’s time to go back and deal with that trap that unleashes a wave of mummies every time I trip over it…

Rating

5 out of 5

Where can I get it?

You can purchase Curse of the Pharaohs for $19.95 USD from our affiliate PocketGamer. A trial version with the training level and the next level is also available.