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Mummies Rising (Xbox 360) artwork

Mummies Rising (Xbox 360) review

"Stare in horror as undead monstrosities slowly creep towards you! *Checks watch* Uh, they will get there eventually...I promise!"

The greatest time I ever had playing first-person shooters was a period during the mid-00s when I got back into the Doom franchise and realized that, unknown to me previously, a lot of aspiring designers had created all sorts of levels which were being freely distributed online as .wad files. Not only did I have the original games to play, but a near-unlimited supply of fan-made levels were on hand to completely devour all my free time!

Of course, after going through a bunch of them, the ugly reality set in. While some of these levels and .wads were simply amazing, many, many others ranged from tolerable to a complete disaster. It's the sort of thing a person just has to expect from fan-made works -- while some people were legitimately talented and can create offerings that did the Doom name proud, others were rank amateurs whose efforts could be described (to be as charitable as humanly possible) as "they tried".

While Mummies Rising, one of the many $1 XBox 360 titles in its indie marketplace, isn't affiliated with Doom, it is an FPS that is probably more comparable to a fan-made .wad than an actual retail title, making this intro quite relevant to the rest of this review. Much like a Doom game, the "plot" of this Rendercode Games title is more of a framing device than any actual story. You play the role of a soldier sent to an Egyptian tomb to investigate the disappearance of an archeological expedition. This leads to 10 levels of mummy blasting, as said expedition might not be readily available, but hordes of shambling undead are!

And there is our first problem. Shambling undead do not move very quickly. You'll start the first level and realize you're at one end of a long corridor. While the level loads, you'll see which two guns you've been given for it, with one usually being a quick-firing automatic one and the other delivering single shots. Neither one individually has enough ammo to put down all the mummies in a stage, so you'll have to use both, which I guess might induce players to use strategy, even if I can only think of one instance where strategy may be helpful.

This first level and its long, linear corridor is not that instance. You slowly walk in a straight line (with the occasional bend) and blast mummies as they walk onto the screen. While these levels are pretty dark, that doesn't help the mummies when they can only slowly walk in your direction while all you have to do is point a gun at them and shoot until they fall.

For this reason alone, the second level was an enormous improvement. Instead of being placed in a narrow corridor, you're now in a wider, arena-like setting. Since there's more space to cover, it's easily possible for mummies to sneak up behind you. In fact, it's almost too easy. Since there are roughly 20-30 mummies per stage and these arenas aren't particularly vast, I could almost get the impression many of them were flagged to spawn in response to my actions, as they'd have an uncanny habit of sneaking up on me until I found myself regularly spinning around to see if anything had materialized a couple step behind my location.

I didn't mind that happening, whether it was by design or not. When you're dealing with foes that move as slowly as the typical Romero zombie, you need something, anything to make them imposing. Considering I died a couple times on this second stage, Rendercode Games seemingly succeeded in doing that. At least until I devised a cautious plan where I regularly checked behind me as I crept along the walls of the level. These mummies are only tricky when you can't see them coming.

That strategy got a lot of use, as the first two stages were essentially repeated for the remaining eight, with you doing various corridors and rooms, all loaded with mummies. I mean, the background graphics were suitably Egyptian for the setting and the mummies are well-drawn, while the sound effects can become chilling during the game's most tense moments, but seeing the same stuff and overcoming the same challenges did start getting tiresome by the time I was about halfway through Mummies Rising.

At least until the eighth stage snapped me out of my stupor. Overall, it's not really any different than any of the other arena levels, being a large room loaded with many mummies. However, in a stunning attempt to mix things up, a quartet start dangerously close to our hard-working soldier! I actually had to move quickly to gun down one of the mummies on my flank, so I could run to the left and blast the other three as they stumbled towards me. Of course, this triggered a few others to action, which meant I spend a few tense moments wilding spinning around and sending bullets flying before things died down and I was able to easily blast the remaining foes.

A second new trick -- running mummies -- was introduced in the penultimate level. Not that they were much of a challenge here, as this was another corridor level. While two or three mummies often attack at a time, it seemed like only one in each group was a runner, so I just shot it first and then focused my attention on its painfully slow cohorts.

After that, everything went to hell, as the final level is an arena where you'll be stormed by runners almost from the beginning. This is the level that made me semi-convinced mummies are flagged to spawn behind you while you're exploring, as after I found my first enemies, I tended to not have a moment's rest until the monsters overwhelmed me. It was utterly insane! I'd walk to the left and by the time I got to the wall, there'd be a pair of mummies near a pillar that would charge me. I'd gun them down, turn around and there'd be a couple more making a beeline. And then more would come sprinting out of the darkness. A few would fall, but I'd eventually get to the point where I'd have to reload and the couple seconds I'd spend not firing a gun would be fatal.

This is that one instant where strategy can be useful, as my best chance of survival came from swapping guns when the clip on one got low and then using any reprieve as an opportunity to reload. At least that works better than trying to evade. The soldier does not move quickly. In fact, he's barely faster than the slow-moving mummies I breezed through for the majority of the game. Against the runners, he was the slow one, so any attempt to backtrack and buy a bit of time led to me staring at the screen in disbelief as reanimated corpses (whose animations make them look hilariously goofy while running) gradually overcame me and quickly tore through my paltry amount of health. After nine levels holding a bare minimum of challenge, I met my match in a brutally difficult finale where I had to be execute things flawlessly, as there basically was no margin for error.

So, with Mummies Rising, we have a short game where about half the stages are painfully easy and only the final one and the early portions of another offer any real challenge. Challenge which is mainly present due to how your character moves like he was wading through a swamp filled with molasses. At best, it's a mild diversion that reaches the point of being entertaining on occasion. At worst, it was essentially a waste of a dollar and an hour or so of my time. But, hey, to be as charitable as humanly possible, they tried!


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (October 10, 2014)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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