Release Date: September 2008
Assil has a big problem. Seems he has been grounded for a week by his father for ‘borrowing’ pop’s pyramid key and partying like an Egyptian, but that’s the least of his difficulties. Of a more pressing matter is that Assil defiled a sacred artifact by using it as a bottle opener and now a death curse has been put on his life and he only has hours to live unless he can convince the Pharaoh to remove the curse. Don’t you just hate when that happens?
What to do, what to do? Why do as every teenage boy has done throughout the centuries and sneak out of your room of course!
Ankh: Curse of the Scarab King is an impressive port from the pc title of the same name. I’m not sure how they did it, but the developers have managed to cram not only all of the cut-scenes onto this tiny DS cartridge, but they have also, more impressively, ported over all of the spoken dialogue and music (Although about that song that plays at the opening of the game, may Allah make my head explode if I ever have to hear it again!)
Ankh is another gem in a growing list of impressive point-and-click adventures on the Nintendo DS. The stylus is used to guide Assil; simply tap where you want him to go. Likewise, highlighted icons – Walk, View, Take, Talk, Use – allow you to simply tap the screen in order to perform the required function. It is simplicity at its most ingenious. Later in the game there are some puzzles that require cooperation between two characters and they also could not be simpler to perform thanks to the touch screen.
Unlike the original that was in 3D, the DS port is presented in a 2D overhead point-of-view which, unfortunately, often makes it difficult to identify some objects, much less determine which are interactive. If there is one major improvement I could suggest, it would be the option to highlight all of the hotspots on the screen. While some purists may consider this ‘cheating’ – which is ludicrous, just because a hotspot has been identified doesn’t mean that the player will know how to use that information – I think it is a necessity for a point-and-click game that is being played on such a small screen. Opinions on such matters have improved over the years, not to mention that it would be a boon to offer such encouragement to first time adventure game players.
Speaking of which, seeing as how most publishers nowadays won’t even go to the added expense of including an instruction booklet with their pc game, it’s nice that the DS version includes a wonderful little booklet that is a nice introduction to the genre, especially as playing an adventure game such as Ankh on the DS may be a first time experience for many.
As for the puzzles, some of them have lost a few steps during the conversion. This is not to say that they have been ‘dumbed down’, just that a solution that my have previously required five or six steps, now can be solved in only three. Again, while the hardcore adventure gamer may be dismayed by this, the newbie may find it easier and less laborious to solve a puzzle.
There is also an obvious LucasArts influence in both the graphics and the at times silly dialogue. While that can never be a bad thing, it can be a dangerous thing if your development team is not talented. Fortunately, the Deck 13 crew has studied well and while the jokes and dialogue don’t always hit the mark, they do more often than not.
So if you’d like to have something small and funny to play with (insert Viagra joke here!), then beg your mummy for a copy of Ankh. And as a side note, the Ankh cartridge that was used for this review was supplied to us by the European publisher and it worked without a hitch in our North American Nintendo D.S. so obviously there must not be a conflict with country codes.