Friday, February 5, 2021

Matter of Import 011: Pharaoh's Curse (Atari 2600, 1983)


There was a Pharaoh's Curse released for the Atari 8-bit computers and the Commodore 64 in 1983. Coming from Synapse Software it was an early version of a metroidvania, with caverns full of treasures, monsters, and traps.

This is not that game. This Pharaoh's Curse is like if Dig Dug and Boulder Dash had a baby, but then that baby was raised by the most boring foster parents in the world, thus settling the debate over nature vs nurture once and for all. It's not even a bad port, it shares nothing but a title and a nod to the premise from TechnoVision, only released in Germany, and with good reason.

You, the explorer, dig through desert sands while being pursued by a poisonous snake and a deadly scarab. You can dig under these blocks – which might be treasure or might just be blocks – but can't seem to collect anything. They'll fall and crush enemies to give you points... or you can just shoot the enemies and get points instead.

The Asp and Scarab reappear shortly after being dispatched, so you can, if you want, shoot them again. Is this fun? No. Can you shoot up or down? Also no.

Digging down to the bottom of the screen does nothing. You can't push the blocks to match them up, like in Frisco. Dropping them to the bottom of the screen does nothing. You cannot collect them. You cannot shoot them.

The only goal – if you can call it that – is simply to dig away all the sand on the screen. Do that, and you win the round, your reward? To do it again. I'm going to give the game a D rating – not entirely pointless, but certainly not worth playing.

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