Mediocre games are difficult to review. There isn’t anything particularly good or bad about them, and so there isn’t anything to really praise or make fun of. And even worse for The Mystery of the Mummy, the latest adventure from Ukrainian developer Frogwares and U.S. publisher The Adventure Company (the adventure division of DreamCatcher Interactive), it’s a mediocre adventure much like The Adventure Company’s other mediocre adventures (think of The Pharaoh’s Curse or The Mystery of the Nautilus for recent examples), and so it’s a game where there isn’t much to talk about, and where it feels like I could just point you to an earlier review.
Anyway, The Mystery of the Mummy involves an archeologist who might have committed suicide (by “self-immolation,” ouch), his daughter who is also an archeologist and who isn’t convinced her father is really dead, a nephew intent on making money from the archeologist’s findings, the company that sponsored the archeologist and who the archeologist might have been swindling, and, of course, the mummy, which contains a mystery and maybe a curse, and which also might be trying to reincarnate itself. Throw into the mix Sherlock Holmes to investigate the matter, and The Mystery of the Mummy has plenty going on.
Unfortunately, the story remains mostly a muddle. The Mystery of the Mummy is “inspired by the adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” but that seems to be a marketing ploy more than anything else. Dr. Watson only makes a cameo appearance at the end of the game, and Lestrade, Moriarty, and Mycroft aren’t mentioned at all. True, you get to control Sherlock Holmes, but it’s not like you really investigate anything or collect clues. The Mystery of the Mummy is a pretty standard point-and-click adventure, and with a few changes to the cinematic sequences and voice acting, it could have been added to the Cameron Files franchise.
And so what you do mostly in The Mystery of the Mummy is prowl around the archeologist’s mansion / museum. The archeologist started going insane and getting paranoid before he (possibly) died, and so he left many puzzles and traps behind, which you’ll have to solve and disarm. The premise has some potential, provided you don’t care that the game doesn’t really have anything to do with Sherlock Holmes, and it’s a better excuse than usual about why there are puzzles around. But Frogwares doesn’t do much with the idea, and it doesn’t appear they spent very much time thinking up the puzzles at all.
Consider these examples. At one point you have to re-assemble a machine so you can get through a door. You find three gears, but then all you have to do is click the gears onto the machine to fix it. Later, you have to find some blocks of wood so you can open up a nightstand, but once again there isn’t anything to it; you just click the blocks onto the stand and it opens. Well, ho hum. How hard would it have been to add some meat to the puzzles? Maybe make it so you have to slide some wood around so the blocks fit into the nightstand? Or at least do something so the majority of the puzzles don’t involve picking up objects and simply clicking them on things?
In fact, there are only two puzzles of any substance in the game. One of the puzzles is a lot of fun, but it’s probably impossible to solve if you’ve never seen one like it before, and the other is only difficult because the clue you’re given is a little vague. Otherwise, Frogwares added difficulty to the game in the standard ways that developers do when they know they can’t rely on the puzzles: they made some inventory objects and puzzles difficult to find (the hairpin is a good example, for those of you playing along at home), they made the interface (purposely?) misleading at times, they added numerous timers to puzzles (the entire final act is timed), and they even added in a maze of sorts. Oh, boy. If you want your adventures to test your intelligence rather than your patience then The Mystery of the Mummy probably isn’t the game for you.
On a brighter note, the archeologist’s mansion is nicely atmospheric. There are over a dozen rooms to explore and numerous Egyptian artifacts to examine, and they’re all distinctive and detailed. (Unfortunately they’re also a little bit blurry since Frogwares didn’t use a particularly high resolution for the graphics, but perhaps that’s what it took to keep The Mystery of the Mummy to one CD.) Plus, the cinematic sequences are nice, and the voice acting and background music are much better than I expected.
So, overall, The Mystery of the Mummy rates up there at about the same level as a lot of The Adventure Company’s games. The visuals are nice, but the majority of the puzzles are lightweight, and you’ll probably spend more time endlessly searching rooms for inventory objects than you will using your brain. So if you’ve played The Adventure Company’s Dracula games or Cameron Files games, and enjoyed them, then you’ll probably enjoy The Mystery of the Mummy as well. If you haven’t tried a game from The Adventure Company yet, then I wouldn’t overly recommend The Mystery of the Mummy, but there are certainly worse ways you could spend $20.