Ankh is the return to the good old days of the graphic adventure. The types of games that LucasArts popularized on the PC back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It fits in perfectly with Maniac Mansion, Full Throttle and the Monkey Island adventure. It may use polygons instead of sprites, but if you're familiar with any of the classic games in the genre then you will feel right at home with Ankh.
Ankh tells the story of a young Egyptian boy named Assil who accidentally awakens a mummy who shows his thanks by giving him a death curse. The rest of the adventure is spent trying to figure out how to get the curse lifted so that Assil can go on living a worry-free life. Along the way he will solve puzzles, meet a whole lot of interesting (and eccentric) characters and do battle with creatures from the underworld.
You control Assil exclusively with your mouse; which means you point to where you want him to move to and solve puzzles by combining items with the left and right mouse buttons. Unless you want to save or change the options, you will never need to touch the keyboard while on the adventure. This is par for the course when it comes to graphic adventures like this, so don't expect a lot of deep game play on your journey to lift Assil's death curse. About the deepest the game play ever gets is when you double click on a location and watch your young hero run a little faster.
The game is set in the distant past, long before the invention of modern technology. But a little thing like that isn't going to stop this game from bringing up a lot of topical humor. In a lot of ways Ankh reminded me of the classic Disney animated movies, where everything is done for a laugh and the characters are way over the top. In fact, this game even starts with a song and dance number that is right out of Aladdin. The game is filled with self-referential jokes and even a few pop-culture references that don't seem as out of place as you might imagine. Almost all the dialog is played for humor, and I'll admit that I ended up laughing at quite a bit of it. It doesn't hurt that the main character is very likable and so are most of the characters you run across.
The problem with Ankh is that it's not very challenging. I ended up having no problem beating the game in four hours, which seems a tad short for this type of adventure. There are only five chapters in the game, and a couple of them won't take much more than a few minutes to finish. That's not to say that they aren't fun, but a seasoned veteran of this genre will breeze through this game without even batting an eye.
A lot of the reason why this game is so short is because the puzzles themselves aren't very tough. Nearly every puzzle in the game has you picking up an item, combining it with another item and then giving it to the right person. This isn't a bad way to make your adventure game, but it would have been nice to have a little more variety in the finished product. Furthermore, there's entirely too much backtracking through familiar locales. The world surrounding you isn't very large, so you will end up going back to the desert, back to Cairo, and back to the Sphinx a few more times than you would like. There are a few interesting locations you only see once (including an underwater area, a strange underworld and so on), but too much of the adventure takes place in a very limited world.
The game's presentation is pretty good for the most part. The graphics won't blow you away, but the characters are nice looking and the backgrounds are full of funny details. From time to time I ran into some minor glitches, including running on air and some choppy animation. This is annoying (especially since my computer far exceeds the system requirements for the game), but I can live with it and these problems are few and far between. Ultimately the graphics in Ankh won't blow you away, but it successfully captures that silly look that it's going for.
The voice acting is also very good. All of the interaction between the characters is done with voice acting, all of which fits perfectly with the theme of the game. The person that plays Assil does a great job of making him sound apathetic to this whole adventure, part of the reason that he is such a likeable character. He has a very sarcastic tone and often says things you are thinking. This is especially true as the adventure makes some preposterous turns. The story never gets too dark, though. Even the bad guys are pretty likeable.
Ankh is a fun little adventure that does a good job of bringing back a genre I thought was long dead. I wish the story was a bit longer, but it does zip right along and you will never get bored while playing it. The light-hearted nature of the game makes this perfect for younger gamers who are curious about graphic adventures. It never quite reaches the same level as those older LucasArts games, but it comes close and is a lot of fun for the few hours it lasts.