Metroidvanias come out so frequently that it’s often hard for any one of them to stick out. Movie tie-in games don’t stick out for a much more simple reason: many of them are cheap shovelware. If the movie it’s based on is bad, then its game tie-in is only going to be further ignored and banished to the annals of history in record time. Despite all of this, The Mummy Demastered, the game linked to 2017’s Tom Cruise-led The Mummy, is a great Metroidvania that’s still an excellent, creepier take on the genre.
2017’s The Mummy was a universally panned film. It helped put the nail in the coffin in Universal Studio’s MCU-like Dark Universe and forced the studio to take a different approach to its monsters, which resulted in stand-alone movies like 2020’s The Invisible Man. And when a movie is that forgettable, viewers probably don’t want more of it and a game set in the same universe. No one wants a dirt cake for dessert after eating mud and rock lasagna for dinner, especially when that dessert comes four months after the main course as was the case with the film and game release.
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Developer WayForward also didn’t have the most even record at that point. It did develop River City Girls and assisted with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, but those two acclaimed titles hadn’t come out yet, which means most of its success at that time was from its internally developed Shantae series.
While the Shantae games, Aliens: Infestation, Double Dragon Neon, A Boy and His Blob, and Contra 4 are just some of the team’s great titles, they are vastly outnumbered by WayForward’s other projects that mostly consisted of licensed games based on shows for children. The Mummy Demastered just seemed like WayForward being WayForward: making a mediocre game based on a mediocre film or television show; it just wasn’t based on a kid’s show this time.
The Mummy Demastered was releasing to low expectations and seemingly knew that since it opens with its strongest element: its soundtrack, which is one of the best game soundtracks in the last decade. Monomer crafted a spooky score that uses heavy synths and groovy rhythms to evoke a 1980s-esque theme — appropriate for the game’s slick retro art style — and the horror films the Mummy franchise takes from. While present throughout its absolutely amazing soundtrack, this balance of horror and its 1980s aesthetic is made immediately clear in the track that plays over the title screen and gives an accurate sample of the whole experience right off the bat. It’s a tracklist of heaters that leads with its hottest beat.
The gameplay is more traditional, but it’s wonderfully done. Players control a faceless soldier as they try to navigate a series of caves, forests, sewers, labs, and city streets in order to take down Princess Ahmanet, one of the antagonists from the film. In typical search action platformer fashion, players gather abilities in order to reach new areas, occasionally splitting off to grab a secret or hidden upgrade.
Describing it doesn’t do it quite enough justice because it’s more than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t lead players by the nose from objective to objective but does give them a waypoint, which forces players to explore while giving them some sense of direction. The game is also paced well, as powers and new equipment come steadily over its six or seven-hour runtime. These upgrades often include a different weapon or grenade that players even get to choose between depending on what fits their style. These stages end with a climactic boss fight that becomes a decent test of the player’s skill; an aspect that the game could use more of since it’s a bit on the easy side. It’s a tried-and-true loop that Demastered doesn’t exactly innovate in, but executes brilliantly.
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WayForward didn’t push way forward with The Mummy Demastered as it is a by-the-numbers, if well-executed, search action platformer. However, it’s still far better than it had any right to be and is one of the best horror-adjacent entries in the genre, an aspect that is further strengthened by its excellent and tonally appropriate soundtrack. The Mummy was a big loss for Universal as it fell short of the $450 million it needed to break even and drove a stake through the heart of the aforementioned Dark Universe, but it at least spawned a solid and underrated video game adaptation.