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ANKH: Reverse The Curse!

Reviewed by  Mr. Bill and Lela

When just watching the introduction to a game can make you smile, even when you've had a tough week, then you know that it's going to be a good one.  Ankh is the Rx for what ails you.  It's a lighthearted 3rd person 3D cartoon-style adventure that plays like one of the old classics (think Curse of Monkey Island or Simon the Sorcerer II).  And it has their same kind of wonderful irreverent attitude toward everything.  We don't think that we'll ever be able to look at history in quite the same way again!  For the setting is ancient Egypt, circa 3000 BC, and you play Assil, a typical teenager who sneaks out for some fun with his friends one night and winds up in trouble.

Your father is one of the architects for the Pharaoh, and one night you steal his keys so that you and your two friends can break into the tomb of the Scarab King to do a little partying.  But just as you are all settling in and congratulating yourselves on having avoided all of the death traps, you accidentally knock over a stack of urns within the tomb...  and his scary-looking mummy, wearing an ankh, springs to life!  He's determined to put a death curse on you for breaking the seven urns, and he succeeds (it shows up as a cool-looking tattoo on your hand).  But in the struggle to do so, he loses his ankh to you (it's a symbol of life, usually only worn by Pharaohs) and so he disintegrates into a pile of dust.

In a state of panic now, and wearing the mummy's ankh with his death curse tattoo on your hand, you go home and try to sneak back inside without your father seeing you.  But he's awake and hears you.  He knows that you took his keys and he doesn't want to hear any of your silly excuses, or your wild stories.  He grounds you for a whole week (!), and sends you to your room.

Now you're really desperate.  You've absolutely got to go see the Pharaoh before this death curse kicks in.  He's the only one who can remove curses, and so you've got to find a way out of the house that doesn't involve going past your father again...

As we mentioned before, this is a 3rd person 3D cartoon-style game.  We played a review copy CD so we had no manual, but the interface is so simple and well designed that we really didn't need one.  Everything is point and click (one click for walk, double click for run, right click to do something), and it has a smart cursor that also prints out its action in a strip across the bottom of the screen ('walk to", 'look at', 'combine object with', etc).  Conversational subtitles are optional and appear in the same place.  Later on in the game a small icon will also appear that you can click on for easy transport across the Nile, and much later on, one that allows you to switch control back and forth between Assil and his new female companion for awhile.  Inventory items are always visible across the top of the screen, and if you hold your cursor over an item and left click, Assil will describe it for you.  Volume of both music and sound can be adjusted (press 'Esc" to access the Menu), and there are unlimited saves.

This game really deserves an Oscar as 'Best Animated Film' of the year!  The graphics, cut scenes, dialogue and music are all movie quality and show strokes of pure genius.  The stylized backgrounds are brilliantly colored, highly detailed, and best of all, created by artists with a jaundiced eye and a keen sense of humor.  A little sight gag may be tucked in almost anywhere, and we will NEVER forget how they made the Great Sphinx look!

The characters are even better.  Their poses and facial expressions are absolutely priceless (even the crocodile's!).  The voice acting is superb and the dialogue is positively brilliant.  It slyly makes fun of many of our pretensions and beliefs (even adventure games themselves), and much of it is very funny.  The routines for both the assassins and the slave & his master would do any good stand up comedian proud, but practically every character will eventually have something to say that'll crack you up.  You really don't want to miss any of it, so make sure that you always click on all of your options.  And when you add to all that the great music that makes you want to get up and dance or quit playing to kick back and just listen (as we did in the desert), then you already have an outstanding game...  and we haven't even talked about the puzzles yet.

It's a long, linear game that is subdivided into 5 different chapters with headings like 'How To Annoy A Pharaoh' and 'An Indecent Proposal'.  Each chapter is loaded with just one puzzle after another, and all of them are the great old-fashioned kind that you only have to use your inventory and logic to solve.  They vary in difficulty and a few may make you feel 'stumped' for awhile.  Just keep in mind that you can't die in the game and there really are no dead ends (although there are a few 'red herrings').

And clues abound, in everything from 'look at' descriptions and volunteered comments to general conversations and special characters who will steer you in the right direction.  Assil also has a 'To Do' list that you can access by hitting the 'Tab' key.  Even if you see what looks like a timed puzzle or chase scene, don't panic.  They're really just what we like to call 'Reset' puzzles (that is, they reset when you make a wrong choice).  They just want you to think you're in trouble, but in truth you have all the time that you need to figure out what to do.  So just relax and enjoy all the puzzles.  We certainly did.  They were like a breath of fresh air.

And the game ran perfectly for us with a couple of minor exceptions.  Occasionally it would freeze when we tried to quit, but we soon found that hitting the 'Enter' key would unfreeze it.  However it also froze once on us during game play (and once we ourselves did something pretty stupid), so make sure that you save often just in case you run into any problems.  Other than that, our only hassle occurred during installation, when it just took us awhile to get the StarForce copy protection to accept our access code.

So we say again, Ankh is good for what ails you.  It's a wonderful game that you and your whole family will enjoy.  It'll make you think and make you smile, as so many famous games of the past did.  And that's the best therapy there is!

  April 2006  Mr. Bill and Lela

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Developed (2004) by Deck 13 Interactive and published in Europe by bhv Software.  Published (2006) in North America by  Viva Media.

Rated:   T   for Teen 13+  (alcohol reference, crude humor, mild language, suggestive themes)

Minimum System Requirements:  Windows

Where To Buy This Game:

Walkthroughs or Hints:

"MaGtRo's Walkthrough" available here!

Mr. Bill's   Adventureland
Copyright  April 2006
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