30 Games of April – Day 12

Tutankham
Factfile
Developed by: Konami
Published by: Parker Brothers
Released: 1982
Format played: Atari 2600



Ah man, what a cracking little game this is.

Another one of those games that, having grown up with the Atari 2600 version I had no idea that it was actually a port of an arcade game. Legend has it that the original title was Tutankhamun but the name was too long to fit on the cabinet and so it was shorted to Tutankham. It’s one of those stories that you just hope is true.

The game itself is a maze adventure. You take on the role of a grave robbing explorer, delving deep into the tombs of Tutankhamun to steal his treasures. You no good scoundrel, you. Watch out though because there are all sorts of nasties waiting to make your rotting corpse a permanent resident of their underground home.

It is effectively a variant on our old friend Pac-Man. Shoving your little man off on any direction will see him keep moving along that vector until you either redirect him or he comes into contact with a wall. Periodically you will come across little warp holes that let you jump to a new section of the level. Picking up treasure meanwhile earns you points but in order to exit the level you must find and collect a particular key.

The beasties we noted above spawn out of various holes dotted around the level. Like the ghosts from Pac-Man, a single touch spells death, robbing you of one of your precious 3 lives. Fortunately then you come packed with a gun, a single shot from which will leave them in a pile of dust. But there’s an added layer to the beasts behaviour. I suspect it is actually driven by the limitations of the hardware but it adds an unexpected layer of depth. You see, whilst your character can move up, down, left and right, he can only fire sideways, meaning that he must manoeuvre himself around any threats to neutralise them. The trouble is, enemy movements appear to broadly follow yours so that when you go up in the maze, the enemy follows you. Due to the layout of the mazes, this can result in the critter effectively getting stuck in a section of maze. No problem if you’re going the other way but a big problem if he’s sat on a bit of treasure or blocking your way out. The solution is to use the environment, ducking into a crevice to make the beast shadow your movement, then darting back up to draw level and give him a dose of what for. Or you can use it defensively, luring the creature into a dead-end before sprinting off in the other direction.

There is no time limit to the mazes per se but your weapon will stop working once a timer runs out. If you can make it to the exit then it reloads in time for the next maze, otherwise it may cost you a life to recharge. You also get a finite amount of flash grenades, for use in those dire, back to the wall situations and which let you wipe out all enemies on screen in an instant. There are 4 mazes in all and 4 difficulty levels. Assuming you start on the first, completing the game loops you back round the same set of mazes at increased difficulty, speeding up beast spawning and lowering your weapon timer.

Funnily enough, the Atari’s limited graphical output actually works in its favour compared to the arcade original. The cabinet version, whilst more detailed and colourful, looks a bit of a chaotic mess. The maze layout may be less sophisticated, the weapon more basic and the enemies barely recognisable blobs but it presents a cleaner and simpler maze to navigate. Sound is equally basic. Your footsteps generate what could almost be described as a heartbeat sound, critters spawn with a delightful schlock whilst the aurally proficient amongst you might recognise the jingle that plays when you pick up some treasure as bearing more than a passing resemblance to the background music of Popeye.

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of