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Ankh: Curse of the Scarab King (DS) artwork

Ankh: Curse of the Scarab King (DS) review

"Ankh remains a game worth playing. Just not in this form."

I thought it would be a help that I’d already played the PC version of Ankh when the new DS port landed on my desk. I suppose, in a way, I was right. Because, when the strange bugs started to pop up, I could see they didn’t belong.

Like in the second chapter of this Egyptian-themed adventure game where Assil, the son of a Pyramid architect who finds himself saddled with a death curse after he crashed one of his father’s tombs to stage an impromptu party, is thrown in jail after bluffing his way into the Pharaoh’s chambers. Here, he needs to bribe a fellow prisoner with a bottle of wine for him to turn his handy coathanger into a versatool (which is a cunning jab at a rather popular videogame you might be aware of). The new DS controls make such transactions easy; your inventory is displayed at the top of the touch screen and all you need do to combine items is drag the piece you need towards what you want to use it on. I held the stylus over the jug of wine, used it with the hole in my cell from with I communicated with my incarcerated chum with, and all was fine. The wine was drunk, the empty jar returned and the jailbird sufficiently bribed. All that was needed was to give him my coathanger and freedom would be mine!

Except, nothing happened. I got the vocal prompt I got every time I clicked on the coathanger about it being made of bendy wire, but, when I dragged it to the hole in the wall, nothing. I tried various times, heard the bendy wire prompt enough to have it embedded so deeply into my psyche that I talk about it in my sleep, but did not get the result I knew I should have gained. Finally, being the hardcore games journalist that I am, I decided to delete my file and start again from the start. I, once again, delved through the opening chapter, helping blind tailors and scaring macho palace guards with cunningly-designed disguises before finding myself back in my jail cell. I did nothing differently. My cellmate was bribed with wine but, this time, he took the wire hanger and all was well.

Until Chapter Three.

The third chapter sees a now free Assil try to sneak his way into Osiris’ temple in an attempt to plea to the gods themselves to lift his curse. Assil is no longer alone and has sassy Thara to back him up, resulting in the player switching between both characters to solve various puzzles. The problem here is that, whereas you could freely pass items between Assil and Thara by combining them with the inventory pieces you need shifted in the PC version, here, for some reason, the second character will sometimes not be recognised by the first, meaning that swapping items is impossible.

Do as I did and have Assil pick up all the items you see, and you‘re looking at a game-breaking fault when you have to use both characters in synch to solve a bunch of puzzles. Puzzles now deemed uncompleteable because you have no way to distribute your cast with the items they need.

Something Ankh could really do without. Even without these problems, there’s still enough to grumble about. New camera angles brought in to try and complement the DS screen instead make certain hot spots invisible, leading to random and futile stylus stabbing. It also doesn’t help that some of the items you need to collect along the way are literally a pixel wide, making them hard to spot and harder still to collecting with you inaccurate prodding.

I don’t know if Ankh would have made a good DS port without these hosts of problems and it’s a shame I never will. I know it’s a goofy but logical adventure game on the PC that I enjoyed playing through, but the DS version does nothing to compliment it. It’s 50/50 whether or not some game-breaking bug will come along and nerf your progress where you stand and I’m tired of having to nuke a save file and start from scratch over and over again for problems I know have no reason to exist.

Ankh remains a game worth playing. Just not in this form.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (October 12, 2008)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Lewis posted October 13, 2008:

Shame - the Ankh games have been a breath of fresh air for the adventure genre in recent years. I'm so fed up of publishers rushing their developers to release these things before they're finished. So much stuff is so buggy at the moment.
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sashanan posted October 13, 2008:

PC games having a tendency to be released before they're good and ready was one major reason for me moving to consoles (not consciously, it just sort of happened but the frustration hits double hard every time I do return to a PC game and notice how much buggier they tend to be on the whole). On PCs, this is annoying, but often largely fixed with patches down the road. On the DS, this is simply inexcusable. Thanks for warning me off, this would be the kind of thing I might have bought.

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