"The eleventh commandment: And thou shalt not take all
this stuff too seriously." Assil
Last year Ankh treated
us to a fun-filled romp through Cairo with Assil--a cheeky teen who stole
a "weird bottle opener" triggering a death curse.
In the original game, with the help
of many unusual and amusing characters, Assil set out on a quest to lift
the curse. Now Assil's back in
Ankh: Heart of Osiris (Ankh 2). He's in trouble again, and needs your
help. Are you up to the task?
"Without the ankh, not only your soul but those of all Egyptians sit on
Osiris' scale." Tut Cashun
Ankh 2 opens as those
dim-witted villains, Blackeye and Tarok, skulk through Cairo's graveyard.
They are bearing Assil's ankh as a gift to Osiris. How did they get it?
Osiris receives their gift,
adding that he now only needs his heart in order to dwell in the world
with his full powers. But wait! Assil charges to the rescue brandishing--a
broom. He grabs the ankh. All is well!
Well, maybe not. He is
promptly hit over the head and tossed into an open grave. What happens
from here? Is the world ending? Is this "it" for young Assil? I'm
not telling, but I will say that the road to the answers is paved with
humor, intriguing puzzles, colorful graphics, and lots of non-player
characters (NPCs), both old and new.
"I've seen a lot of characters stroll by here today who looked like
they were capable of the odd criminal caper or two." Volcano
Most of the cast from the
original Ankh are back. Assil sports
a beard and a mustache, but other than that, is unchanged. He is
still a bit of a ne'er-do-well, but don't discount his hero's heart.
Volcano returns as a
fire-eater in search of an audience. This hooknose, headband-wearing hippy
is "one of the good souls of Cairo," according to Assil.
Remember Tut Cashun, the
frail psychic? He doesn't "see" so well anymore, so he took over Dinar's
The nearly blind tailor has
become a barber, and Fatima manages The Wild Mummy, an exclusive
bar near her shop.
The lovely Thara, the banana
peel throwing rebels, the clueless smugglers, and Assil's father all play
their part. And that's not the entire roster.
Several new players
are introduced; most notably the barrel-chested, deep voiced Al-Caponep
and the aptly named Cringer. We finally get to meet the jailed fruit
vendor we first learned about in Ankh, Gemotep. Each contributes to
Assil's quest, though perhaps not in the way you'd expect.
"And you don't have to do much other than spewing big talk, and that I
can do." Gemotep
With such a large cast of
characters comes a lot of dialogue. Often it's flippant, and it's usually
diverting. Speech is well synchronized to the characters' lip movements.
Not all of the dialogue
choices are necessary to advance the game. Left clicking skips through the
dialogues. Conversations can be repeated until they are no longer
I particularly enjoyed one
tongue-in-cheek "gotcha" moment. But I became disenchanted with the
endlessly repeating repartee between two NPCs as I worked my way through a
"But that's the point. I simply love that special sound." Al-Caponep.
With so much discourse, I'm
glad that the voice acting overall is pleasing. I particularly enjoyed the
voices of Osiris, Al-Caponep, and Cringer. Assil and Thara were also
agreeable, and the Pharaoh's daughter was in her best brainless, whiny
However, I noted some
scattered problems. Occasionally, the conversations between NPCs paused
unnaturally. Other times, the conversation sounds as if it is being read
instead of acted. Every now and again, an accent struck me as
inappropriate. Small problems all, but they lessen the overall quality of
With a few glaring
exceptions, the environmental sounds are well done, and contribute greatly
to the game's immersive quality. For instance, water gurgles, Volcano's
fire whooshes, but a ringing bell emits no sound. Wind blows, birds call
convincingly, but we hear no footsteps. Doors creak, Assil's father
snores, but the bazaar is silent.
The background music is
excellent, setting the mood without overpowering the game. It infuses each
scene with an air of mystery or danger or insouciance, and greatly
enhanced my enjoyment of this game.
"You should only put burning objects in your pocket in the event of an
True to its cartoon style,
Ankh 2 is rich in color. Some areas drip with it while others are more
restrained. Cairo gives us saturated and unexpected hues: walkways in
shades of blue, pink stones, and green buildings.
This is a world of contrast,
light to shadow, warm to cool, simple to complex. The deep blues, browns,
and reds of a temple setting give way to the brightness of the desert.
Objects often lack texture, and background items are more stylistic than
detailed, but it successfully provides us with an exotic world for our
Movements abound. Swaying
palm leaves, crackling fires, a swinging bazaar curtain, running water,
and fidgeting NPCs impart a touch of life. Likewise, the grand scale of
the palace, the temple, and the quarry contribute to the feeling of being
in ancient Egypt.
Witty touches are found in
the graphics as well as in the dialogue. They run the gamut from obvious
anachronisms such as cocktail glasses and beer cans to a passing tribute
to an adventure game classic.
Very dark screens in several
areas forced me to adjust the brightness setting (from the in-game menu).
Nonetheless, I played on medium for most of the game which yielded a
"Everything here seems to be recycled." Assil
Ankh 2 offers a
successful balance of old and new locations. You'll revisit the palace and
get to explore more of it. In addition, you'll drop in on many of the
locales from the first game.
Ever wondered about the
nightlife in ancient Egypt? A visit to The Wild Mummy will sate
your curiosity. Have you visited a graveyard after dark recently? You
will. Of course, these are only a few of the new settings. Have fun
discovering them for yourself.
"I figured out how to turn a doorknob all by myself. I'm so clever."
Ankh 2 contains only
inventory puzzles. They flow from the story, and most are not difficult.
Items can be combined or taken apart in the inventory screen, which is
displayed across the top of the screen.
I usually had an idea of what
to do next, but not always. There were a few occasions when I experienced
that "aha" moment only after resorting to the "combine everything with
In addition, there is one
complex, multi-stepped puzzle. The clues range from the obvious to the
One puzzle presents Assil
with a choice of being magnanimous or selfish. At first, I thought there
might be an alternate ending. However, it doesn't matter which you choose
as both trigger a needed event. One just entails a bit more work on
"The programmers didn't either. And now they'll have to act as if all
this was planned from the very beginning." Bulbul
Ankh 2 is divided into
five chapters. Lively cut scenes separate them, and cut scenes also play
within the chapters. Be alert for the clues these might provide.
You'll begin by assuming the
role of Assil, but at differing times you will play as two other
characters as well. In addition, at one point, Assil needs to work
cooperatively with Thara.
Game play is linear and some
"to and fro" backtracking is necessary, but always within a limited area.
You can't die, and I never pixel hunted. Happily, there are no scenes
requiring dexterity or fast reflexes.
"I have to inspect the locks." Assil
For anti-piracy reasons, one
puzzle generates randomly and has many answers. It requires a code wheel
to find the correct combination and continue the game. As I played from a
download, I have no hands-on experience with this. But I've been told that
the gamer aligns several wheels with information the game supplies in
order to obtain the solution.
"That's right! And it works beautifully." Tut Cashun
With one exception, Ankh
2's interface is the same as Ankh's. The change? It's Alt+Tab
friendly this time.
The game is mouse controlled
and employs a smart cursor. Left clicking yields a description or comment,
and right clicking performs the action. A double tap on the left mouse
button prompts Assil to run, though on my screen he tended to glide, then
The tab key brings up a To Do
list. This is a generalized overview of goals. I found it a useful memory
Saves are apparently
unlimited and you can save at will. I saved thirty-six times. Each save is
labeled by chapter name and screenshot.
Ankh 2 offers many
customizable options including subtitles. Particularly useful for me was
the ability to change screen brightness and to control the music, ambient
sounds, and voice levels independently.
The escape key opens the main
menu. There you can continue the game (no need to remember which save was
your last), save, load, access options, and exit.
I like the design of game's
ending. The credits are short, and accompanied by This is Cairo
(the song from the first Ankh). An option to exit, a feature which
should be standard, follows the credits.
"That won't work." Assil
Though generally of high
quality, I found a plethora of small mistakes in the game.
For instance, voicing is
absent in one conversation between Assil and the Ambassador. There are
also several instances when an item or character description is missing.
Instead, I'd see coding such as "talk to CHAR_SMALLCOP_DESCNAME."
Twice, mislabeled inventory
items caused me to wander around aimlessly.
This game was not originally
published in English. Though I'm glad it was translated, I noted many
homophonic errors such as bear/bare. Too, there were scattered
misspellings, and a few problems with word order.
Camera angles were generally
excellent, but in a key scene between Assil and Fatima, the camera focuses
on the back of Fatima's head.
In addition, I found a few
graphical problems. In one scene, an NPC is chiseling a statue, but a
camera change reveals him chiseling air.
Characters walked through
solid objects now and again, and once Thara floated in midair.
"You're being a bit picky aren't you?" Assil
While there is not much to be
wary of in this game, it includes a few mild curse words. Also, we see
back-view male nudity once. Finally, there is one extended scene between
the Pharaoh and a burning bush which some might find offensive.
"I woke up totally disheveled in an alley." Assil
I experienced no crashes or
dead ends. There is no patch as of this writing.
"Finally, finally, finally!" Osiris
I thoroughly enjoyed the time
I spent in Cairo. The game is humorous and easy on the eyes, the puzzles
are fun, its characters are offbeat, and the interface is familiar and
allows customization. I even liked the music.
Though it has multiple small
problems, Ankh 2 is great entertainment. I'm already looking
forward to the next one.
Point and click interface
3rd person viewpoint
Colorful cartoon-style graphics
Occasional mild profanity
Lots of character interaction
Inventory puzzles only, though
several are complex
Voice acting generally well
done, with a few exceptions
Background music sets the tone
Most ambient sounds are well
done, but some are absent
You can't die
No pixel hunting
No action parts
Easy interface with smart
Save at will
Some minor grammar mistakes
Infrequently, characters walk
through objects instead of around them
I played on:
Intel Pentium 4
1 GB Dual
Channel DDR400 SDRAM
NVIDIA Geforce FX5200 Ultra (video card)
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