Pharaoh's Tomb

Apogee Software saw its genesis in 1987, achieving success with plenty of shareware games that gave players a taste of various titles, only requiring payment for full versions of these games to acquire all playable episodes. Among their early shareware titles was Pharaoh’s Tomb, initially shareware although all four episodes ultimately saw release as freeware a few years ago, the title itself being fairly enjoyable in spite of its flaws.

Pharaoh’s Tomb is divided into four twenty-level episodes, with each level being one window large, with protagonist Nevada Smith able to move left and right through the levels, jump, collect coins and masks (a hundred of the former granting him an extra life, something five of the latter does as well), and acquiring keys necessary to advance to the next level. Nevada has no life meter, and touching enemies or spikes or getting crushed by spike and weight lifts results in death, the loss of one of his lives, and a restart of the current level. Nevada can have up to five lives at a time, not to mention five spears that he can fire at enemies to kill them with one hit, sometimes necessary to advance through narrow passageways where he can’t simply jump over the enemy.

The player can save their game anytime in the middle of a level with the S key, although reloading a previous save mandates that the player start a particular level from scratch, with no mid-level quicksaving, although fortunately, levels tend to be short and this flaw is negligible at best. Death, however, comes rather frequently, what with occasional tricky jumps where Nevada can easily fall to his death, and while the game limits the number of attack spears he can carry, careful use of them can prevent the player from encountering unwinnable situations when they have no spears at all. The life system is somewhat pointless since odds are players will want to immediately reload their last save upon death to avoid running out of lives, but otherwise, the gameplay helps the game more than hurts.

Controls are generally easy to get a handle of aside from the need to start a level from scratch upon loading a previous saved file not to mention occasional tricky jumps.

The narrative in Pharaoh’s Tomb is actually fairly decent for a game of the time, with multiple pages of text per episode that precedes and succeeds the gameplay, although there isn’t any story in between normal levels, and thus weak pacing in terms of plot.

There is no music at all in the game, with the sound effects somewhat filling the void, although they’re somewhat unrealistic, unsurprising for a game released around the turn of the 1990s.

The visuals are also dark and simplistic, with no variety in between levels, even during different episodes, although they’re by no mean an eyesore.

Finally, completing all episodes takes around three hours, with little replay value aside from getting high scores and knocking all default scores from the charts.

Ultimately, Pharaoh’s Tomb is a fairly enjoyable title that hits most of the right notes in terms of gameplay but leaves plenty room for improvement in other areas such as the save system, the lack of music, and the simplistic graphics. Those curious about the title can download the DosBox application needed to play early MS-DOS games, not to mention the full game from 3D Realms’ website, and will likely enjoy the game in spite of its flaws.

The Good:
+Simple but fun gameplay.
+Story is actually decent.

The Bad:
-No saving mid-level.
-Only one save slot.
-Frequent deaths.
-No music.
-Simplistic visuals
-Little replay value.

The Bottom Line:
An enjoyable but flawed freeware game.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: MS-DOS
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 5/10
Graphics: 6/10
Lasting Appeal: 4/10
Difficulty: Medium
Playing Time: About 3 Hours

Overall: 6.5/10

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License