Stop the Presses!
Stand up and Cheer! Strike up the Band! Deck13 hits a homerun with Ankh!
Ankh is a superb, 3D
adventure game proudly featuring a classic adventure game style, a
point-and-click interface, third person perspective, and humorous and
highly entertaining dialogue. It rounds out the package with colorful,
comic style graphics, apparently unlimited saves, inventory puzzles, and
some laugh out loud moments. Can you tell I liked this game? A lot?
“Is it just Fahta Morgana? Tell me, is it really true?”
You play as Assil, a
slightly cheeky, overly confident, big-eyed, Egyptian lad whose father
just happens to be chief architect for the Pharaoh. Just for fun, Assil
“borrows” the key to his father’s latest tomb. He and some friends sneak
past the death traps into the tomb of the Scarab King. Assil is looking
for a nice quiet place to party, but what he finds is a “fancy bottle
opener,” a death curse, and a week’s grounding. And so the adventure
begins. Assil sets off to discover a way to lift the curse. Can he do
it? Or is he doomed?
“What a play of light and shadows. The city’s just waiting for you.”
The game begins with
a bang. Its farcical style is immediately obvious when the MTV style
production number rolls. This features many of the zany characters that
you eventually meet and sets the stage for a rollicking good time.
Another production number plays as the credits roll. Ankh goes out as
well as it comes in.
Immediately, I was
immersed in Assil’s world with its bright and engaging comic style
graphics. I loved the feeling of movement from the swaying trees and
rippling water. I liked the added depth given by the use of sun-drenched
areas juxtaposed alongside deep shadows. I gamboled, together with Assil,
through various fanciful locations including an immense palace, a green
oasis, and a vast and dry desert. I loved Ankh’s interpretation of the
Sphinx, seeing it with new eyes and from a whole new perspective. But my
favorite scene was an undulating underwater setting where Assil’s floating
movements particularly impressed me.
scenes both entertained me and moved the story along. One of my favorites
was the dancing crocodile. Boy, can he boogie!
This mood setting
continues with some very professional and enjoyable voice acting. The
accents are not Egyptian, but they flesh out the characters and imbue them
with life and personality. In a game of this style, that is what counts.
With one exception, the voices fit the characters like a glove.
Ankh’s ambient sounds
helped me feel as if I had somehow gotten into Assil’s Egypt. The
creaking of the hand sign as it gently rocks and points the way to the
Sphinx stands out in my mind as one example, but there are a game-full of
Flowing through it
all is melodious background music with an Egyptian flair. Most of the
time, it provides a playful and upbeat background to the adventure but,
when the moment calls for it, it slides into a tension building beat. It
never gets in the way of the story, and I never found it annoying.
However, I did find myself humming the theme song, “This is Cairo,” from
time to time.
“It’s the god of the gods and the girls with their beautiful hair.”
Deck13 promises more
than fifty characters to interact with. As with the rest of this game,
the developers more than live up to their promises. Ankh is peopled with
quirky characters around every corner.
True to its comic
style, the characters are not lifelike, but color gradations in skin tones
and facial movements help imbue them with life. Most sport appropriate
costumes for the era. From Blackeye, the gold-toothed, not so smart
assassin; to Red Sea Aquarium, a caravan leader with a doubtful sense of
direction; to Take Tut Cashun, the not so psychic psychic -- all are
dynamic characters. Eyes shift focus, bodies sway, hands gesture, and
mouth movements are synchronized to speech.
Assil, in particular,
shifts restlessly and taps his foot if left in one place too long. It is
as if he is reminding you, “Hey, let’s go have some fun!” Sometimes the
characters provide clues as to what you need to do next, or perhaps, how
to do it; sometimes they provide missions, and sometimes they just provide
“Yes, this is Cairo. It’s all magic and sand.”
defines palaver as “talk intended to charm or beguile.” This is the
perfect definition of the writing in this game. Ankh delivers humorous,
waggish dialogue that pokes good-natured fun at adventure game conventions
in general and at itself in particular. It trips over itself delivering
witty one-liners and, occasionally, laugh-out-loud conversations. Who
knew talking to a hapless mummy who just wants to reach the underworld
could be so funny?
Near the beginning of
the game, there is a dialogue with Blackeye and Tarok which also serves as
a FAQ. I found this both hilarious and original. There are also ongoing
conversations between the Slave Master and his Slave, which Assil
overhears while exploring Cairo. You can learn a lot listening to these
two. For instance, according to this odd couple, “Moses gives interviews
after each and every game.” In addition, “…they caught him in the desert
talking to bushes.”
Ankh contains a fair
amount of conversation—some of it via cut scenes and the rest by way of
the standard dialogue tree. If you are in a hurry or tired of laughing,
skip already heard dialogue by left clicking through it. I particularly
relished the range of responses available to Assil. Often, he has the
choice of being serious and straight to the point, a bit flippant, or just
Dialogue choices may
disappear depending on your response, but you can usually initiate the
conversation again if you want to explore all the options. No matter
which choice you make, you generally end up with the required
information—it’s up to you how entertained you want to be en route.
“See the sphinx, worship the Pharaoh, go meet the
Ankh’s puzzles are
predominantly inventory based. These puzzles blend well into the
storyline and serve to move the story along (or does the story provide a
vehicle to fit the puzzles in?). In any event, the puzzles are always
fun, sometimes whacky, and most fit well into the storyline. I usually
knew what I needed to do, but not always exactly how to get it done. I
loved the unanticipated twists thrown in. Ankh’s puzzles did not always
yield the results I expected, and this was all to the good.
There are a couple of
interesting logic puzzles and also a timed one, a quasi-timed one, and one
chase scene too. The logic puzzles were easy to medium difficulty with
clues readily available, though for one of them you will need to be in two
places at the same time. It’s a good thing the game lets you do this.
The time limit for
the timed sequence was not a generous one, but I accomplished it once I
figured out what to do. The quasi-timed puzzle had a more generous time
allowance. But with neither one did I have to play long sequences
over—just do the puzzle itself over until I got it right. In the gamut of
timed puzzles, these were easy.
The chase scene was
another story entirely, and it frustrated me for quite awhile. It
followed a long cut scene with lots of dialogue. Being caught resulted in
starting over from the beginning of that cut scene. In this particular
scene, the needed action was not obvious (at least, not to me) and I did
this section so many times Assil himself began to scold me. “I think you
are doing this on purpose,” he said more than once. I wasn’t! I did
eventually figure out how to complete it, but mostly by accident. For me,
the chase sequence was one of the game designer’s few missteps in this
I have seen the
puzzles in Ankh compared to those of the Monkey Island games, but I do not
find this a valid comparison. The puzzles in Ankh, while occasionally
whacky and always amusing, were never as nonsensical as the ones in the
Monkey Island games. Ankh’s puzzles are entertaining and they make
There are no sliders,
no mazes, no mini-games, and no sound puzzles. There is one puzzle
requiring color recognition. However, this puzzle can easily be done with
a walk-through. I never pixel hunted.
How does it work:
“…It’s all in your hand.”
Ankh uses an
interface style that old school gamers will be familiar with, and folks
new to this style will acclimate to quickly. You cannot die, and you
cannot do anything resulting in a dead end. In almost all particulars, I
found it well designed and easy to use.
Possible actions such
as “walk to,” “look at,” “use,” and “combine with” are described across
the bottom of the screen. In addition, the icon changes to indicate
possible actions. Left clicking “walks to” and “looks at.” Double
clicking the left button makes Assil run. Right clicking “picks up,”
“uses” and “combines with.” In the beginning, I forgot about right
clicking, but eventually it became second nature.
This is not a game
that requires a lot of saving, but even so, saves are unlimited. The game
gives them the name of the area you are in and also adds a picture. It
confirms the game has saved, and asks before it overwrites another save.
Nothing to complain about here!
The game designers
included a shortcut feature that I particularly appreciated. This game
involves a good bit of “toing and froing,” and two shortcuts help to
condense this. To return to your ferry from the desert, there is a
shortcut “ship” icon. Clicking on that bypasses several load screens by
returning Assil directly to the ferry.
Also, after you have
given the ferry man what he wants, you can skip the dialogue with him
altogether by right clicking on “use ferry.” These shortcuts enhanced
game play immensely for me.
The inventory system
is well designed. Inventory appears across the top of your screen. Left
clicking gives a description and right clicking picks it up to use or
combine with something else. No scrolling needed.
Ankh includes a To-Do
List for Assil which is great for refreshing your memory. Once received,
mission goals are found there and crossed out once finished. The Tab key
brings this up.
Sadly (one of the few
negative points about this game), Ankh is not Alt+Tab friendly.
plenty of options to customize the gaming experience. Options are found
in the main menu which is accessed by ESC, and include Brightness, Screen
Resolution, Texture Quality, Shadows, Effects, Music Volume, Sound Volume,
and Sub-titles. You can change your option selections during the game.
This feature was handy in one area when I needed to switch the brightness
selection from standard to high.
The main menu also
allows you to continue a game without going to the load screen. You also
save, load, and quit the game from it. It even allows you to quit while
the credits are rolling. I appreciate this feature as I detest being
locked into a PC game once I have finished it.
Ankh is available in
Europe on CD, and when purchased that way comes with a gamer-friendly and
delightfully illustrated manual. I so want one!
At the time of this
review, Ankh has not been released on CD in North America. However, some
European sites will ship to North America. In addition, it is available
for purchase by download. A back up CD is available upon request at the
time of download. You will not receive a manual, though. You can
purchase either way from
The file size is 375
MB and download times will, of course, vary according to your connection
and other factors. I downloaded it twice using a DSL connection and it
took me forty-five minutes each time. However, I have reliable reports of
an eighteen minute download and also reports of download times of greater
than an hour.
downloaded or on disk, is copy-protected with Star Force. I had no
problems with it.
I have two small
complaints about the interface, and I do realize they are nitpicky.
First, on my computer it took between 7-12 seconds for the screens to load
between major areas. I found that annoying! Second, my mouse (wireless,
laser) felt “floaty” and imprecise for the entire game. Usually, this was
just a minor aggravation, but in the timed and chase scenes, it became a
Deck13 went all out
with this game. From the website,
http://www.ankh-game.com/ you can download a comic book featuring a
portion of Ankh, download an MTV type trailer featuring characters from
the game, or play the online riddle. While the riddle uses scenes from
the game, the riddle’s game play is nothing like the game, so if you try
it and find it difficult, don’t be discouraged.
Obviously, I consider
Ankh an excellent game. That said, there are a couple of issues to be
aware of. There are a few instances of mild swearing such as you would
hear on American television.
I could not play Ankh
with other applications open in the background as they would sometimes
bleed through to the game. Since the game is not Alt+Tab friendly, there
was really not a compelling reason to have other applications open anyway.
spoken dialogue does not exactly match the subtitles, though these small
differences do not essentially affect the meaning of that dialogue. There
is a sporadic misspelled word or two. Small potatoes, all, and none
detracted from my enjoyment of this game.
On the whole, Ankh is
a stable game and needs no patches. I experienced two irreproducible
errors—once a character appeared where she wasn’t supposed to be, and once
the game loaded incorrectly. The untimely character blinked out, and
reloading solved the solitary load problem.
The Last Word:
“The Nile is right by the desert. That’s where
Egyptians have fun.”
Ankh is a hoot to
play. I had a wonderful time frolicking my way through Egypt with Assil.
The irreverent, tongue-in-cheek dialogue always entertained me and, on
more than one occasion, had me laughing out loud. The story twists and
turns enough to be interesting even when I knew (or thought I did) where
it was going. This game delivers the total package. Its graphics are
bright and colorful. It is full of movement, the puzzles are amusing, its
voice work is professional, the ambient sounds are authentic, and the
background music ties it all together without ever being overpowering.
While it won’t be
everybody’s “fish burger,” if you are looking for lighthearted
entertainment, give this game a try.
“Feeling lonely, buy a slave in the city down by
3D point-and-click adventure set in Egypt, but with steampunk style
Mostly inventory puzzles
with an occasional logic puzzle
1 timed, 1 quasi-timed,
1 chase sequence
1 color based puzzle
No sliders, no mazes, no
sound puzzles, no mini-games
No pixel hunting
Colorful, comic style
facetious dialogue with ability to skip repeated dialogue
Not Alt+Tab friendly
Left and right click
Stable, no patches
No North American
release, but available from European stores or by download
Mild, occasional TV
All quotes, unless
otherwise attributed, are from the song “This is Cairo” by Ivory Keys.
I played Ankh on:
Windows XP Professional
3.2 GHz Intel Pentium 4
1 GB Dual Channel DDR400
Sound Card: DirectX
Version: 9.0b (4.09.0000.0902)
CD Drive: 52X32X52 speed
Video Card: 128 DDR
NVIDIA Geforce FX5200 Ultra
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