Space Egypt (80 MSP) has you navigating a future iteration of the Mars Curiosity Rover in an unlikely premise; solving NASA’s budget troubles in a good old-fashioned smash-and-grab that involves miscellaneous aliens, Egyptian temples (on Mars), and their shiny treasure. I say unlikely (kind of like the Moon landings, eh, conspiracy types?), but it is plausible. Certainly the budget troubles ring true.
The game goes for, and nails, the Atari style, achieving the look, sound, and old school difficulty (set amount of lives, with 1ups possible, no continues) like a champ. The throwback won’t hold as much charm for anyone born in the 90s, but for those of us that remember the days when this was as good as it got, the nostalgia is welcome.
Careful. Curiosity killed the c… …Curiosity.
The local hostiles (snakes, eyes, sawblades; your typical extraterrestrials) are naturally quite perturbed at your transgression, clogging the traffic lanes and re-spawning as soon as you thin their numbers. To complicate matters, your rover can only fire left and right. The situation varies throughout, as sometimes it’ll work to your advantage to dispatch enemies quickly, while at other times you’ll be forced to wait it out and spot an opening. If all else fails, you are given one flash bomb per life that erases all baddies and prevents new spawns for a few seconds. Every five stages you’ll encounter the same boss, an alien ball that shoots lasers, joined on subsequent rounds by hazards or enemies.
You’re welcome to collect any and all trinkets you stumble upon (the game’s tacit purpose; also those aforementioned 1ups will come in handy), though the intended goal in each stage is simply to survive the timer and find an exit. The door through is always locked, requiring a key found within the level. In fact, many stages have multiple doors / exits, asking for several keys. In a serious design flaw, NASA’s scientists saw fit to only allow Curiosity to scoop up one key at a time, creating some intense return trips and clock-watching.
That is a mixed blessing. Enemy movement is frequently a pain to predict in the narrow corridors, much like another old school setup, Aqualibrium, which also contained random patrol routes that were tough to plan on and work around. It’s the little things in games that tend to aggravate, exasperated here by a glitch I encountered in level 3-4 that kept me from accessing the second half of the level, one that persisted even after death as I squandered my extra chances in vain. It only happened on that playthrough, but it was an annoyance nonetheless.
It’s tough to take a stance on something like Space Egypt. There’s the nostalgia factor to consider, and there’s enough in the gameplay to crack a smile and fill the plus column, but some not-so-well-done bits and questionable AI tactics hold it back from an immediate buy. New tricks and enemies show up on a steady schedule, as does an uttered ‘just one more try’ phrase or two, yet that progress comes with a generally ho-hum feeling, a muted version of fun.