Adventures are still a bit of a forgotten genre. Luckily a couple of promising games are being developed and good examples tend to be released on the market now and then. One of these is without a doubt Ankh, an adventure that plays in Egypt and has gotten too little attention up until now. Let’s get that changed with this review!
Developer Deck13 got some welcome help from Telltale Games who contain quite a lot of former LucasArts employees. And those we of course know from pearls like Full Throttle and Sam&Max. The end results, I’ll tell you now, is definitely worth checking out!
The player takes on the role of Assil, a young man who lives in Ancient Egypt during the time of the faraos, pyramids and mummies. His problems start when he secretly explores a pyramid and unwillingly gets cursed. What immediately gets noticed is the classic setup of this adventure.
Just like in the good old days, the control system is limited to “Point&Click” and you get context-sensitive options depending on the object you point at. Look, grab, combine, use, … you know the drill! Nothing bad with that as in this case it works perfectly, amongst others due to the smart use of the left and right mouse buttons. Your inventory is also kept very simple, with on top of your screen the objects in your backpack which you can easily drag and drop. And example of simplicity!
Also the way of storytelling reminds us of games like Sam&Max and Monkey Island. Inside jokes, funny conversations, hilarious characters, totally exaggurated and stupid situations: it’s all there. It’s obvious that you don’t need to take this game seriously. During the first conversation, the whole genre gets taken for a laugh with for example questions like “Can I die in this game or can I jump from anything without fear for my legs?”
This tone also gets set in the graphical aspect. The style is colorful, cartoony and mostly light and fun. Even the mummies look like they need to be cuddled! Technically there’s without a doubt room for improvement and we’ve all seen things that are better, but the charm and sheer gaming fun just shines off it and for this type of games that’s the most important thing. The 3D models are nicely animated and also the directing is well done.
No surprises with the gameplay, you collect and combine items and objects, explore screen after screen, click and look at any possible piece of interesting-looking surrounding and try to go further in the game like that. Objects with which you can interact are clearly marked so the pixelfinding is down to a minimum. Still you’ll spend quite a lot of time with searching your screen, especially when you’re stuck somewhere and this happened just a bit too much as you don’t know which areas are accessible and scrolling, and which aren’t.
Luckily, most puzzles are set up logically and more difficult parts get varied with parts where you progress without a problem. That way the typical challenge of this type of games remains while the frustration level is kept very low. Do expect endless trying of combining things from your inventory and surroundings with each other. It stays an adventure and for that you need a lot of thinking and patience, or don’t you?
The conversations are a bit weaker than the puzzles. Not because of their content but due to the fact you never get the feeling that your choice of answer changes anything on the outcome. The conclusion is mostly the same and if you answer something wrong, you can immediately take the other option. Good is that now and then you get some tips during a chat so that they do have some point.
A good thing with these conversations is without a doubt the actors that have spoken all the lines. They are all very professional and motivated with their job and blow tons of life and humour in the game. An example for a lot of more expensive productions that never manage to reach this level of finishing. Too bad that the technical aspect drops a few points here though.
Ankh is a game that deserves a lot more attention. It isn’t a classic but a very qualitative, funny and well-made adventure with excellent vioce acting, good puzzles and enjoyable graphics. You don’t need to look for innovation but lovers of the classic approach of the genre will find quite some hours of gaming fun. If you want to practice your brain in a fun way a couple of nights, you need to buy this!