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Lora's Adventure Game Reviews: Mystery of the Mummy
Mystery of the Mummy (Game release date: 2002)
Pleasant but unexciting 3D adventure fails to live up to its promise of Sherlock Holmesian mystery
Buy This Game
||Highlights: Kid-friendly, some|
||Lowlights: No interactiveness, clumsy gameplay, random inventory combination,
poor use of Sherlock Holmes as protagonist
Mystery of the Mummy is purportedly a Sherlock Holmes game, though the only evidence of this within the game itself is the intellectual British aplomb of the
narrator and the movie cutscenes. The gameplay is utterly standard graphic adventure fare that evokes nothing of Sherlock Holmes at all. It's completely beyond credulity
to imagine Holmes creeping through a haunted mansion, rummaging through drawers for household objects he might want to stuff in his pockets. Holmes would be
examining smudged fingerprints on the sarcophagi and making deductions about which suspects couldn't possibly have left them. In Mystery of the Mummy, you
don't even get to meet the suspects till the game is practically over, and you don't get to discover any clues or make any deductions.
Like 7th Guest
before it, Mystery of the Mummy is really just a puzzle game, not a mystery game, and stumbling around the spooky mansion bumping into secret doors and wondering
whether the living dead are for real or not is more Scooby-Doo than Sherlock Holmes.
As puzzle games go, though, this would still be a worthy example if it weren't for two big flaws: pointless timed sequences, and contrived inventory puzzles.
I'm not a fan of timed sequences in the first place, but in moderation, they do at least make a certain amount of sense in a mystery thriller. There's no excuse for timed
sequences in a pure puzzle game; none. Can you really imagine sprinting through Myst to finish an Age before time runs out and you have to reload? And as
for the inventory puzzles, too many of the ones in Mystery of the Mummy boil down to using a random object on another random object for no predictable reason.
Why would Sherlock Holmes--or anyone else for that matter--use a fork on a painting, just because he happened to have found a fork? At one point I found a padlock
that the narrator explained was rusty and could be broken. Sensibly enough, I tried to use a hammer to break it, to no avail. My five-year-old son suggested "Try the
screwdriver!", because it was the only other thing in my inventory that he recognized by name, basically. And lo and behold, Sherlock broke the padlock with the
screwdriver. He needed the hammer for a later task, you see. Inventory items are one-shot in this game.
This episode leads me to another point, though: my two sons loved this game. It was creepy without being gory, they could handle the controls
themselves, and they don't mind pixel-hunting or random inventory-guessing a bit. It even got one of them interested in mummies and Egypt. In fact, if it wasn't for
the timed sequences and the sheer difficulty of three of the puzzles, I'd be declaring this a major find for the under-ten set. As it is, you'll have to play it with them.
Still, though, its appeal to youngsters is a bright spot in this otherwise unexceptional game. Two others are its price ($20 straight from the company--most games cost
twice that) and its glitch-free gameplay.
Style: Mystery of the Mummy is a puzzle adventure game with a 3D first-person view of the environment and a point-and-click
interface. The plot is a mystery, with supernatural elements. The game features several timed sequences, though little manual dexterity is required.
Combat and leveling are not elements.
Series: Mystery of the Mummy has had one sequel,
Secret of the Silver Earring. I haven't played it yet, but apparently it achieves
a much more Holmesian feel (the murder investigation being primary, puzzles secondary) but still suffers from unnecessarily timed puzzles (including mazes). Anyway,
there is no connection between the two besides the use of Sherlock Holmes as protagonist, so each stands alone perfectly well. If you don't mind DOS abandonware,
the 1992 game Case of the Serrated Scalpel was the best Sherlock Holmes game I've ever
Finding Mystery of the Mummy: This is a relatively recent game which can still be found in some software
stores. Here it is for sale on Amazon.
Getting Mystery of the Mummy to Work: I didn't encounter any problems running Mystery of the Mummy
except for glitchy sound in the final cutscene, and that annoyance that can be easily eliminated (see
here for how to fix that problem.) Supposedly this game is compatible with Vista, but
like all games released before about 2007, you may need to use XP compatibility mode to make it work properly.
Hints For Mystery of the Mummy: I do not have a walkthrough page for Mystery of the Mummy myself (it is a very linear plot and would not
benefit much from my low-spoiler treatment). I do have a page of Mystery of the Mummy Hints listing all the
timed sequences in the game and how to avoid being hosed by them. If you're stuck on a specific puzzle, there is a terrific hints page at
UHS which reveals only one hint at a time, so you won't accidentally learn the answers to future puzzles
while scanning for the one you're stuck on.
Pitfalls In Mystery of the Mummy: There is one point in the game at which you can become stuck, die, and need to reload
an earlier game due to not having found an object in timely enough fashion (no warning is issued about this, so it's an easy mistake to make). There are also
several realtime sequences including one with a very short time limit and one where you have to finish a long and complicated puzzle before time runs out.
You can visit my hints page to see how to specifically avoid these pitfalls, if you like.
Game Length: 20 hours or so, a bit on the short side for a graphic adventure.
Age-Appropriateness: This game is rated E (for everyone 6 and up) and contains nothing objectionable, though it's possible for
Sherlock Holmes to die if certain puzzles aren't completed quickly enough, which may frustrate younger players.
Lora's Mystery of the Mummy Review: (So-so)
Plot and Quests: The mystery plot is pretty good, but the player has no input into it whatsoever, which
can be frustrating. Basically, if you solve enough puzzles, you will be rewarded with a video that advances the story for you. There are no quests in this game, just puzzles.
Puzzles and Mental Challenges: There's a good variety here: spatial puzzles, word puzzles, inventory puzzles,
and sliders, some more challenging than others. The random and timed elements of several puzzles detracted from the enjoyment somewhat.
Characters: There aren't any, really. This is a solitary game, and the narrator rarely imposes opinions on the gamer.
Watson puts in only a perfunctory appearance near the end, and characterization of the NPC's happens only through poorly translated letters.
Gameworld: The mansion has a nicely creepy feel to it and the Egyptology made for an interesting theme, but none of
it had anything to do with Sherlock Holmes, and Mystery of the Mummy would have been less forced and more fun if it had a new protagonist better suited to the action
of the game.
Gameplay: Generally OK, but damaged by a few serious problems: only six, unnamable savegames in a game that
expects you to reload frequently in order to win is unacceptable in this day and age, the handling of timed sequences is flawed, and players' inability to take part
in interrogations themselves is baffling.
Interface: Serviceable 3D point-and-click interface. The rotation speed sometimes induced vertigo, but was at
least smooth. Inventory management was so-so, and I frequently wished I could have examined objects in inventory. Poor translations occasionally interfered with the
Ambience (Graphics, Sound, etc.): OK, but nothing special. The rooms are drawn fairly well and the cutscene
videos are excellent. There isn't enough contrast in either audio or visuals and there's no way to change this, so you frequently have to squint to find small objects in the
darkness or strain to hear Holmes' comments over the background music. I thought the voice acting was fine, but the mood never really rose to the level of suspense, and
imposing arbitrary time limits upon the players does not compensate for this.
Lora's Recommendations: Mystery of the Mummy is a passable game overall, but a fairly bad Sherlock Holmes game in particular. If you don't mind
realtime challenges, then its sequel, Secret of the Silver Earring, may be a better
bet; in that game, you get to travel around London, interact with Sherlock Holmes regulars and Irregulars, and solve a mystery in addition to the puzzles.
Other mystery adventures that were significantly better than Mystery of the Mummy include Sanitarium,
The Last Express, and
The Black Mirror. If you see Mystery of the Mummy on sale for six bucks
at your local store, though, like I did, you could do worse than picking it up. I spent more than that on "Centipede" games as a kid, after all. Mystery of the Mummy is way
better than Centipede.
If You Loved Mystery of the Mummy: You might also like its sequel,
Secret of the Silver Earring. If you haven't yet, you should probably play the
Myst series of games (Myst, Riven,
Revelation). All four of these serve up puzzles that are even better than
Mystery of the Mummy's, and with no realtime annoyances, to boot. If what you're craving is a game where you really can solve a mystery, though, my top recommendations
for you are the surreal psychological thriller Sanitarium, the
art-nouveau mystery game Last Express, and the
dark horror mystery The Black Mirror. In all three of those games, you can take an active role in the
investigation of an interesting mystery and even, if you are clever, figure it out before the protagonist does. Finally, if what you liked most about Mystery of the Mummy
was its creepy yet non-gory appeal for your children, try picking them up one of the Nancy Drew adventure games, like
this one; they're great fun for parents and kids to play together.
For a more detailed critique of the game involving spoilers, plot holes, and impacts Mystery of the Mummy could have on the adventure-game genre, please see my
Backseat Game Designer page. Enjoy the game!
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