Ankh: Heart of Osiris (PC) review
"Anhk: Heart of Osiris starts off directly after the original Ankh finishes. After a misunderstanding with Thana over a love letter sent by the spurned pharaoh’s daughter, he hits the tiles, gets wrecked and wakes up in a side ally with a killer headache and a conspicuous lack of Ankh. After being convinced by a clairvoyant bet-taker that his fate was inter-tined with the odd artefact, Assil is grudgingly forced to start a new quest all over again."
There’s been a bit of a boom in adventure games as of late: Hotel Dusk garnered mixed attention over on the DS while the PC has seen a slew of titles ranging from the reinvention of Sam & Max to the second Runaway release, the genre hasn’t looked so strong since the glory days of Seirra and LucasArt’s dominance. Last year saw the release of Deck 13’s Ankh, an Egyptian-themed point ‘n’ click starring Assil, who, after throwing a party in a one of his father’s pyramids, found himself struck down with a death curse. This saw him go head-to-head with the God of the Dead, Osiris, in an attempt to snag the Ankh and lift the curse. Along the way he picked up a side-kick in the mischievous Thana, saved all of Egypt, and then turned down both the pharaoh’s daughter’s hand in marriage and the chance to rule half the lands.
Anhk: Heart of Osiris starts off directly after the original Ankh finishes. After a misunderstanding with Thana over a love letter sent by the spurned pharaoh’s daughter, he hits the tiles, gets wrecked and wakes up in a side ally with a killer headache and a conspicuous lack of Ankh. After being convinced by a clairvoyant bet-taker that his fate was inter-twined with the odd artefact, Assil is grudgingly forced to start a fresh quest to save his skin all over again.
Which is done in the same way every point ‘n’ click game ever has; by chatting to bystanders and stealing everything obtainable in the hopes of using it in some wild and whacky way to advance said quest. It’s after a little of the above that Assil discovers two shady characters -- who may or may not have stolen his bejewelled ankh -- have made their way into Cairo’s newest nightclub, The Wild Mummy. However, upon trying to gain entry, the obese bouncer proves obstacle. Assil’s unkempt beard flies in the face of the club’s strictly-enforced dress code and the only barber in town is last-chapter’s short-sighted tailor; letting him near your face with anything sharp garners you the life expectancy of a chronically depressed lemming. He offers an excruciatingly painful wax treatment that involves no blades going near your neck but he’s out of wax, leading you to search the twilight-drizzled Cairo for enough hot wax to tidy up your unkempt facial hair. Amongst other things, in order to do this, you’ll need to prompt a gathering of feral cats into attacking a foul-mouthed parrot, vandalise your father’s attempts at a spring clean and employ the services of a well-spoken fire-breather.
One of the first people you’ll come across in your search is the wine maker, who Deck 13 has used to implement a very clever (and somewhat old-school) copyright control method. From this seller of alcohol, you’ll need to secure a cocktail for use later on in the game, but in order to mix it, you have to employ a code-wheel that comes with the game. By matching up components that the seller lists off in-game, you help him successfully mix the drink and gain it as an inventory item. Without said item, a puzzle later in the chapter becomes impassable. Take that, unscrupulous software pirates!
A few other nice touches include the ability to double-click somewhere and have Assil run to the location instead of seeing him lethargically trot into place. This also helps with exiting one screen and onto the next, keeping the item-hunting and location exploring ticking along at a respectable speed. Though it’s also in this that the odd problem arises. Our apathetic protagonist runs like the floor is coated in lard and he’s sliding at speeds while trying to keep balance; also of note is that, thanks to some poor lighting in certain areas of the game, exits and objects are not always immediately recognisable. The alley you wake up in is the best example of this: without a little wild mouse sweeping, the only exit instantly obvious is the one leading right to the palace which, thanks to the stuffy night-guardsman stationed there, is as good as a dead end at that point in time. Unlike in some adventure games, the items that are there to be taken aren’t always obvious, which promotes a sense of click-on-everything-just-in-case. Luckily, this doesn’t turn out to be quite the problem it could be thanks to a genuinely witty script.
Heart of Osiris also has a few issues when it comes to solving inventory-based puzzles in that you need to use the items in a very precise order. Not doing this often leads you to think that, because you tried your solution out of sequence, that your solution might be incorrect. This led to me dropping a line of query that later turned out to be the correct one on a number of occasions in-game because I tried to combine, say, the electric fan with the sock and not the sock with the electric fan. This is a disappointing drop that makes a game with testing but logical puzzles sometimes into a frustrating click-fest until you try the same solution again some time later only to discover you were right all along!
But for the most part, you are free to proceed without such irks slowing you down, leaving you free to appreciate the many things the game does right. The graphics depicting the comic-like Cairo may not have evolved much since the last chapter of Ankh (or, indeed, the last chapter of Monkey Island some seven years ago) and even seems to borrow a lot of the scenery from the previous game, but it manages to get the points across. Where the efforts fall short on touches like lip syncing, over-the-top facial expressions take the slack coupled with believable and tight voice acting. But there’s certainly enough niggles and flaws within to stop it from converting anyone to the genre. But that’s okay: there’s more than enough of us on board anyway and too many numbers will dwindle the limited supply of rubber chickens with a pulley in the middle.
If you didn’t get that reference, odds are that you won’t have much interest in Ankh: Heart of Orisis. If you did, then stop shamefully hiding that rubber chicken behind your back and give Ankh a try. You’ll find a worthy edition to your library of pixel-hunters.
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