The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor – NDS – Review

When the news struck in April that
the ravishing Rachel Weisz would not be reprising her role as Evelyn O’Connell
in the third Mummy film, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, any remote interest I had
in screening the film completely vanished.

Let’s be honest. How many guys
watched the first two Mummy movies for a compelling story, artistic direction or
Brendan Fraser’s acting? I’d wager substantially fewer than those who paid more
attention to Ms. Weisz’s costume changes than the films’ inane plots.

Upon loading Sierra’s Tomb of the
Dragon Emperor on Nintendo DS, though, I felt thrice the optimism for the game
than the movie upon which it was based. I was greeted by a clean and attractive
menu system, and while the story was introduced with generic stills and
dialectally challenged voice acting, I was surprised to see impressive 3D
visuals and a menu as simple and appealing as the opening ones once the game

My personal issues with Ms. Weisz’s
absence aside – seriously, call me, Rachel – the opening minutes of Tomb of the
Dragon Emperor for DS caught my attention, and for a moment, I thought it might
turn out to be an enjoyable game.

Note I only said, “for a moment.”
Unfortunately, that sentiment changed quickly.

Tomb of the Dragon Emperor puts
players in the role of Fraser’s Rick O’Connell and his son Alex on their
harrowing adventure across China to defeat the risen Dragon Emperor and his
mummified servants. The game takes players through the movie by mixing game
genres; encountering dungeon puzzles and battling the undead, it feels like a
patchwork of scraps from Prince of Persia, the Legend of Zelda and Resident

Leftover scraps, I might add.
Influences don’t get any better, but while Tomb of the Dragon Emperor attempts
to mimic some of their mechanics, it never comes close to emulating their
quality.  Make no mistake, it is the exemplary mediocre movie tie-in.

The gameplay is at least admirably
simple in concept and straight-forward in execution. You move your character
through the environments with the directional pad, interacting with your
surroundings with button presses and the touch screen. Pushing statues and
climbing ledges are handled with the A and X buttons, and you tap the Y button
to initiate melee combat with surrounding mummies. To fire your gun, you tap the
touch screen; tap the left side to fire to the left, the right side to fire
right and so on.

The controls aren’t terrible, but
they’re certainly not ideal, and after only a few minutes, the game’s clunky
overall feel is apparent. You’ll want to move smoothly through the environments
to complete puzzles and engage enemies, but you’ll often find the game simply
doesn’t allow it. Firing your weapon with the touch screen is perhaps the least
efficient of the game’s controls. The taps are responsive, but it is difficult
to accurately aim by tapping the bottom screen while you’re focused on the
action on the top. This difficulty in achieving gun-shot accuracy is amplified
by the relative ineffectiveness of melee combat. With the exception of the
game’s earliest levels, attacking enemies with hand-to-hand combat is usually a
decision akin to an automatic death wish.

And reloading by pressing the R
button on the shoulder of the DS, while holding the stylus and rapidly tapping
the touch-screen, is as ergonomically efficient as physically placing a button
inside the DS itself.

Fortunately, some of the game’s
puzzles are somewhat clever, but even at their very best, they feel like
second-rate riddles picked up from the Twilight Princess cutting-room floor.
Push the statue to the switch, find the mythical puzzle piece…Zelda fans will
feel at home in Tomb of the Dragon Emperor’s ancient catacombs and dungeons, but
given their ease and embrace of the clichéd, they probably won’t feel compelled
to bother.

A few nice ideas making clever use
of the touch screen were implemented into the game’s puzzles, though. In one
dungeon, you have to find a hidden symbol to unlock doors and progress through
the tomb. After finding it, you “memorize it” by literally drawing it in your
journal via the touch screen. At first, I kept scrawling the symbol in my
journal to no avail; nothing happened. Then I noticed the inkwell in the corner
of the screen. After dipping my stylus in some ink — not literally, of course
— it worked fine.

Clever, huh? At first, it is…but
after a few dozen “screeches” made by your dry pen — it empties after only a
few strokes — attempting a scribble, you’ll become even more annoyed by this
touch-screen novelty than you were tickled by it in the first place.

To its credit, Tomb of the Dragon
Emperor runs on an impressive 3D engine, considering the platform. The color
palette is Earthen and dull, but it makes sense given the locales, and for the
most part, the environments hold up very well on the DS. There are occasional
graphical grimaces, but the game is running on a Nintendo DS; you can’t expect
much more than what Tomb of the Dragon Emperor has achieved visually.

Continuing the game’s developing
mastery of mediocrity, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor doesn’t offer a particularly
compelling aural experience, either. The music accentuates the mood during
gameplay, but it is essentially a typical video game soundtrack built on
forgettable background noise and occasionally made unbearable by poor and
irritating voice acting. Press a button prompting an action the character cannot
perform, and he’ll often refuse with a maddeningly snooty response:

A simple “no.” It may not seem too
offensive in print, but after a few of those remarkably annoying responses,
you’ll literally want to slam your DS shut.

Tomb of the Dragon Emperor isn’t a
completely terrible offering, it’s just painfully mediocre in every conceivable
way, and only offering a single-player mode, it is also extremely scant on
options. Priced at $29.99, you wouldn’t exactly be scraping the bottom of the
barrel to purchase Tomb of the Dragon Emperor on DS, but you’d be awful getting
close. Perusing the DS section at a local Best Buy last night, I overheard a
fellow games browser as he stumbled across Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and gave a
knee-jerk summary as eloquent, truthful and concise as anything I’ve written

“Do we really need another game with
Brendan Fraser on the cover?”

Review Scoring Details
Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Gameplay:  5.0
It’s like a pitcher in baseball with a 3.95 ERA; it will get you through a
few innings, but certainly not to the All-Star Game.

Graphics:  7.0
Tomb of the Dragon Emperor runs on a nice 3D engine, considering the
platform, and save a few graphical grimaces, some of the environments look
genuinely decent.

Sound:  3.0
It accentuates the mood, but it is ultimately forgettable background noise.
The voice acting is awful, though, and the characters’ occasional refusals to
follow button presses are among the most irritating quips I’ve ever heard in a
video game.

Difficulty:  Medium/Hard
Considering the target demographic for movie tie-in games such as this, Tomb
of the Dragon Emperor is often unnecessarily difficult to play.

Concept:  6.0
It should be impossible to make a boring video game based on a concept as
over-the-top as Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Where go mummies, revolvers and
ancient Chinese warriors, so too should a good game. Seriously, how do you drop
that ball?

Overall:  4.5
Apparently, fun has the same agent as Rachel Weisz; it’s not in this game,