Good Friday is upon us, folks. On Sunday, the Easter Bunny will set out his eggs and they must be gathered before they hatch into demons and ravage the Earth (That’s how Easter works, right? Demons are born from candy and Jesus has to fight a giant bunny who is powered by chocolate idols that children must devour, lest the bunny overpower him?).
Of course, this week also marked the start of Passover, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the freedom of the Hebrew slaves from Ramses II. Now, if I could, I’d talk about a game that celebrates the rich tradition of the Jewish faith in honor of this solemn holiday. Unfortunately, the only good Bible game in existence is Noah’s Ark (the Konami game on the NES, not the Wolfenstein 3D clone), so instead, let’s play a fun MetroidVania game where a guy dressed up as Moses fights Egyptian zombies and even kills Anubis.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Return of Egypt.
This game is unfortunately in Japanese, so I have no idea what is going on. I do know that the main character, despite his appearance, is not Moses, but rather a man named Rania Gadish who must stop a bad guy named “Hell Master.” Still, considering the robe, the beard, and the staff, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that. There is no patch for the game, but luckily you don’t need one, since the controls are explained in the save rooms (second and third options in the save room menu) and the only part you might need help with is getting started, which I’ll do right now.
As soon as the application executes, press F4 to bring up the configuration file. The default requires a gamepad (which is the better way to play, as long as you configure the directional controls to a d-pad and not an analog stick) but you can move the first ‘X’ to ‘Keyboard’ which will send you to another configuration screen to set up the controls (this is in English, so no worries). Once you do that, you can hit F5 to make the game full-screen and from there you have only to press start and select the file you want to save to.
Once you get started, you’ll get a game that draws heavily from the post-Symphony of the Night Castlevania series. You have a map you can access at any time by pressing the spacebar as you navigate a pyramid’s corridors, killing bosses and enemies as you work your way towards power-ups that will aid you in traversing the corridors and allow you to eventually reach the final boss. However, what separates the game from say, Dawn of Sorrow or Symphony of the Night, is that there are no experience points, levels, or equipment. Your starting health and MP are as high as they will ever get and your staff is your only weapon.
To make up for this, the combat skills you get in the game are very impressive. For example, one of the first spells you learn is a healing spell to restore your vitality, while later combat spells allow you to summon fireballs and lightning strikes. What makes it interesting though is that all of these spells are entered in with fighting commands (this works better on a d-pad, though analog sticks and the keyboard can also enter the commands). The commands are fairly easy to remember and with a little practice, you can dish out some serious harm.
In fact, one of the few problems I had with the game is that the later boss fights tend to be too fast-paced. Ironically, the tougher the challenge gets, the faster the battle is. For example, during the fight with Anubis (who, as a nice nod to Castlevania’s Death is one of the few bosses who talks to you), you can take the god out with only a few spells, but he can also kill you with only a few strikes. While this can be a bit of a letdown (as fights are almost completely determined by your ability to spam spells), it does make for some tense fights. The difficulty in the final section of the game also ramps up the difficulty by adding entirely new mini-boss monsters and requiring you to find three objects, though the game is pretty short and can be completed in a few hours.
The presentation is rather mixed as well. While there are some nice character and boss sprites, the corridors themselves look bad, bordering on terrible. While some rooms look good, a lot of the textures in the wide-open rooms look unfinished. The music on the other hand is excellent and the main theme is a great tribute to the music of Castlevania. Finally, there is a nice animated cutscene at the end, which is a step above what you normally find in Castlevania clones.
Overall, Return of Egypt is a solid freeware game, though not an amazing one. I usually try to pick games that stand on their own, even compared to retail games, but this is more along the “just plain weird” games I like to cover on this series. Still, I can say that this is the greatest game where you fight Egyptian zombies and skeletons (no mummies here) as a guy who looks like Moses.
Freeware Friday is a weekly series by Gabriel B. that discusses the exemplary (or just plain weird) games that get released for free by indie developers.