A second look at Sherlock's "Mummy"

Posted by: Reenie

A second look at Sherlock's "Mummy" - 11/11/06 02:12 PM

Mystery of the Mummy

I noticed that Witchen had already done a review of this game, but her experience and impressions differed so much from mine that I thought another slant on the game might be valuable. Whereas she liked the game, I did not see much merit in it, and whereas she did not mind all the timed sequences, I found them exasperating and not what I look for in an adventure game. That said, read on!

General Comment:
This is billed as a "Sherlock Holmes Mystery" and I am a big fan of this fictitious detective, but I don’t see much connection. There is nothing about the place to suggest you were in England; furnishings are completely generic. There is a vaugely English-accented male voice overdub probably meant to suggest Holmes and his perfunctory style of communicating, but that and the title hardly makes it a Sherlock Holmes mystery. So if you bought the game for a trip to Holmesian England, you are in for a disappointment. As for the mummy aspect, it is not particularly relevant or necessary to the game. That aside, I will admit I got this game from a bargain bin purchase, so I wasn’t expecting a lot. Given that, I suppose I got my money’s worth.

As with the Safecracker games (any so many others, it seems – where IS the creativity these days?), you start out in yet another deceased rich eccentric’s mansion, stuck in the foyer until you solve an initial puzzle. The tired cliché of Egyptian Mummies sets the theme, but has no apparent relevance to anything, barring one or two of the puzzles since these require you to know something about Egyptian Gods. However, the solution to even the Egyptian Gods puzzle is a bit obscure and the so-called "clues" provided in the game are not only unhelpful, they are confusing.

As you solve additional puzzles, you gain access to additional galleries, offices, eventually a Library, upper levels, a basement, and so on. You are searching for clues as to how and why the old boy died, so you can explain it all to his surviving daughter (who appears only through correspondence).

Other Characters:
Thankfully, you are not totally alone in this game. There is a mummy threatening you from time to time. There is a mysterious figure that you see outside. You are alone, but feel like you need to watch your back. That put an edge to things that was intriguing. However, you essentially are alone, and find out about most other characters through correspondence and photos that you find.

Game Play:
There is a GREAT deal of pixel-hunting in the game -- looking under leaves in flower pots, on the floor behind chairs, in very dark cellars, etc. -- in order to collect inventory objects you need to solve various puzzles and open other doors. Some of the items are obvious, others are quite small indeed. If you miss the tiny glint of a fork lying on the floor in the upstairs hallway (oh yeah, THAT placement really made sense . . . lol), you’ll be totally stalled later on. I really got tired of the pixel-hunting, and near the end of the game -- beset by timed pixel-hunting sequences -- I downloaded the WT to save my tendons and patience.

Movement is mouse driven, slide-show fashion but with total 360-degree scanning and up-and-down action within each locale. You slide your mouse from side to side or up and down in order to see more, and the screen moves very fast. Don’t know if it was my video card or the game itself, but the rapidity of the spinning made me vaguely sick to my stomach at first. There is no in-game Option to slow it down. Also, the game is very dark in spots, so I had a desire to tweak the gamma, but it was not an option either. You have to reset your screen gamma outside the game. In fact, there is precious little in the way of "Options" of any kind to tweak this game to your style of play, so you are stuck with the rapid rotation, the dark screen, the wretched music (see below) and other things.

Despite the many rooms in the mansion to be explored, they don’t require you to do a lot of senseless running around. If you have missed something, you can’t move on. There is almost no backtracking at all. You don’t have to go upstairs to get something from Puzzle 1, run downstairs with it to work Puzzle 2, take that reward piece and run back upstairs again to complete Puzzle 3, then run all the way back downstairs again to finally finish Puzzle 4. (puff, puff, puff) I really appreciated that straightforwardness after playing "Scratches." I seldom found myself wondering what the devil I was supposed to do next. If you are stuck in the Library, the solution to getting out is in that room.

Save Games:
You are limited to only six Save Games. Usually, you can save games to your heart’s content. This limitation was provoking given that – with so many instances of timed play – your natural desire is to have a chance to save several games in one locale, just in case you run out of time and die. The only choice you have if you want to play that way is to save over a previous game. This limits how far back you can backtrack if you need to redo something. Of course, you could move some saved games to another folder on your hard drive and trick the game into allowing more save games, if you were intent on that and wanted to go through the effort.

Sound Effects and Music:
The game sound effects are varied and add to the experience: glass breaking, wood shearing, drawers rasping open and closed, locks turning, stones being dragged over sandy floors, the slow "drip, drip" of water in a dungeon space. These all enhance the sense of where you where and what you were doing.

However, the background music is laughable. Just a random loop of unrelated pointless tunes cycling over and over. Does it sound "English"? No. Does it increase the enjoyment of the game? No. It is shallow and incredibly monotonous. After a while, you do your best to ignore it. I would rather have played the game without musical background than to have those short loops of meaningless sounds repeating over and over. Again, there is no option to turn off the musical separately from the necessary game soundtrack.

When Sherlock finds some interesting clue or encounters an obstacle, he sometimes will speak aloud his thoughts about it. These constitute hints at times (and also remind you that it is supposed to be a Sherlock Holmes game. lol) Other times it results in those repetitious, "That won’t work!" sorts of comments. When he "reads" notes from others, sometimes the voice is that of the author of the note or letter. This adds a human element to an otherwise lonely game.

In typical Adventure Game fashion, you pick up everything that isn’t nailed down, and most inventory items make sense. With a couple of exceptions, you don’t pick up stuff you don’t need. Inventory is easily managed, and once you use something correctly, it disappears. That is handy and keeps your stash small.

I was annoyed, however, that the large inventory and menu "bar" remained on the bottom right of the screen all the time. This significantly compromised my ability to look around.

Also, items do not return automatically to inventory if you select a wrong one. You have to open inventory and replace it there yourself. This takes time, and increases tension during timed sequences. I prefer games where the program design drops items back into inventory for you. This convenience improves game play.

As for the use of inventory to solve puzzles, I was surprised by their thinking process several times. Who would suppose that you need a brush found on the floor in order to get through a stone door puzzle? Or a fork to open a desk safe? I guess I like a challenge to my intellect better than a challenge to my rational state of mind . . .

Puzzles for the most part are intuitive (see above for exceptions), although some of them that use Egyptian iconography left something to the imagination. I have played other Egypt-themed games where the symbology was more clearly defined. For this one, I was driven to do additional Internet research in hopes of deciphering the meaning of certain puzzles, and a couple of times got the solution more through trial-and-error than figuring out the right combination of actions.

In an odd mix of styles, sometimes you must do a great deal of searching and solving to get just one piece of a key item, then still must struggle to find its other parts as well. Other times, an important key is found just sitting on a shelf in plain sight. This makes it feel that the game was designed by separate teams of programmers, some of whom were really into it and others were just thinking, " How soon is it until lunch? "

A few times, an otherwise straightforward puzzle design was compromised by an odd assemblage pattern. One example is a puzzle that required wood "tangram" pieces to be found and properly installed. They could not simply be placed where their shapes indicated, however, but had to be placed in a certain order and could not be inserted where they actually belonged by shape. They all were installed by clicking on a single spot other than where you intuitively –and rationally – would have placed each one! A similar puzzle occurred in the wine cellar. It is difficult to describe these oddities because they were so odd, and they complicated the game unnecessarily.

Near the end of the game, there is a puzzle that appeared to be a standard cypher at first glance but was far from it. There was nothing in the game to clue you in on how to solve it. Not only that, but it is a timed puzzle! I finally just went to the WT for the solution. Even with the decoded answer, I almost ran out of time before inputting all the letters. Looking at the puzzle after knowing the answer, I still do not see how it was solved, but maybe I was having a lame day.

Timed Play and "Death":
There are quite a number of sequences where your game play is timed. The first one is not so bad, and you really have plenty of time to do what you need to do. Others are increasingly more stressful, and a couple are WAAAY too short a time span. You end up dying over and over until you figure out what you are supposed to do and get it done in time. Near the end, when you have to solve the cypher puzzle while being timed, there is a lot to do in the time available and it is very stressful. I get way too tense with timed sequences and the threat of dying, which is why I don’t play "Action" type PC games. I am definitely in the camp of those who say, " Keep This Stuff Out of Adventure Games ."

However, if you fail to get the task completed within the time limit, you restart the sequence without penalty. So all you lose is whatever progress you made in trying to solve it. This made me wonder what the point is of having a timed sequence if no penalty accrues to failing it, but there you are. The same applies to the instances where a mistake means your character dies. You restart that sequence with no penalty other than injured pride.

I have to say the many flaws and irritations in this game outweight any positive attributes. I would just as soon have passed on this game if I’d known what it was like beforehand. I nearly quit near the end because of the timed sequences and the repeated dying. I basically finished it only because I started it, not because I was eagerly drawn ever forward. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are between games and there isn’t anything else on the immediate horizon. The best I’d give it is a C-, which is a bad grade in my book.

Game Minimums: (from the box)
Windows 98/ME/2000/XP running on a P2
130 MB free hard drive space.
12x CD ROM with DirectX 8.0

I ran it on a P4 with matching bells-and-whistles upgrades. No glitches.
Posted by: looney4labs

Re: A second look at Sherlock's "Mummy" - 11/11/06 02:36 PM

Hi Reenie, Thanks for the well thought out review. We always love to hear what our members liked and/or disliked about a game.

I played this game as one of my first adventure games. I enjoyed it, but will agree that some of the puzzles were a bit obscure. rolleyes

I was totally at a loss in one puzzle, but on the whole, thought it was fun.

But, you know the only thing sure about gaming is what one person considers fun, another considers too aggravating for words. lol

What will you play now?
Posted by: +Oblivion+

Re: A second look at Sherlock's "Mummy" - 11/11/06 07:45 PM

Great Review Reenie,

I would basically have to agree on only one thing. The reason for that is because I haven't even played the first puzzle! I got that game thinking it would be like the case of the silver earring and got so happy. I installed it to find the worst graphics, bad-sounded, and stomach-sickening game, which is strange for the one i got was released in 2006. It was horrible to me. But Rennie, If I played the game, I would probably agree with everything!
Posted by: Reenie

Re: A second look at Sherlock's "Mummy" - 11/11/06 08:07 PM

Yes, I played the Sherlock game "The Rose Tattoo" and loved it. This game just seemed unfinished -- or at least did not get the thoughtful attention to design that it needed.

Just played Myst IV, Safecracker II (absolutely LOVED it! - see Review) and Timelapse. Playing Sentinel next. Have Keepsake and Agatha Christie on the shelf. Hoping for Tunguska for Christmas . . .
Posted by: Rushes

Re: A second look at Sherlock's "Mummy" - 11/12/06 02:36 PM

Great review, Reenie. I agree with all your points - especially regarding the timed sequences. There were too many, and I found them to be frustrating and stressful. The graphics in this game were exceptionally grainy, which unfortunately further detracted from my enjoyment. I was quite disappointed with this game, as, like Oblivion, I'd thoroughly enjoyed Case of the Silver Earring and was expecting something of a similar high quality.
Posted by: NJMysteryMan

Re: A second look at Sherlock's "Mummy" - 11/12/06 05:26 PM

Very Nice Review Reenie! I too agree. I never finished this game. It could have been a standard "mummy" game. I believe too many gamers got taken in by the "Sherlock Holmes" aspect of it, only to find it wasn't the game they were expecting. On my old PC, the game kept shutting down during the tile puzzle. I haven't played the game since and probably won't bother. Again, great review and even though you didn't like it, I liked the fact that you cited your reasons as to why. Both yours and Witchen's reviews are both great to have together. That's why I love this community, we get to hear from all sides. Nice work!