Mummy-say Mummy-sa mama-ku-sucks!
Question: How do you make a good video game based on a bad movie? Answer: You don't. Case in point, The Mummy Returns, the latest patch of fungus to invade the PS2. It's based on The Mummy Returns, which was based on The Mummy, which was based on the theory that we'll watch just about anything as long as it has lots of CGI. The game has the same kind of rip-off sensibility as the film and, like offal and odor, they go together just fine.
The Mummy Returns is similar to your standard, run-of-the-mill third person action game in that there are platform elements, puzzles, and the compulsory key quests. Where The Mummy Returns departs from the standard is how it seems to strive to be as boring as possible.
The game's only claim to fame is the fact that you can play as either Rick O'Connell (disheveled adventurer and resident goober with all the convincing ruggedness of a half melted dish of vanilla ice cream) or Imhotep (an albinistic pseudo-Egyptian reminiscent of a petulant Mr. Clean suffering from occasional eczema flare-ups). In fairness, the characters look like their movie counterparts, including the Scorpion King.
But no matter how you slice it, you are playing a lame character who can't do much and doesn't look good doing the things he can do. It may truly be the only game where your character's shadow looks like you're being pursued by a pair of disembodied penny loafers. Rick O'Connell's combo kicks, punches, and sword attacks are about as fluid and graceful as a Tai Chi Chuan routine performed by a drunken finger puppet.
After he's slapped them around like red-headed step children, Imhotep uses magic to suck the soul from his opponents a la Soul Reaver. This sounds way cooler than it is.
Basically, you know a game's in trouble when the only good thing you can think of to say about the combat is the fact that you can still carry a torch while fighting. You can't hit anybody with it, but you can at least see whose ass is getting kicked.
If The Mummy Returns' true aim is to numb players into a mindless stupor, it is aided in this endeavor by it's Stygian darkness. Corridors and passageways are dark, endless and indistinguishable as you wander around, navigating these interiors with a camera which is cardinally oriented to your feet. It is impossible to see what stands in front of you just a few yards away. The look button, which you would think could be of some assistance, has problems of its own and will only offer a 45 degree window of vision and is helpful only in the most general sense (i.e. determining whether you are facing the direction you think you are or to see who is standing in front of you).
When you get lost, you can refer to a very pretty assortment of three dimensional maps that would leave even Magellan stymied. Your location on the map is marked by a glowing icon with no indication of the direction that you are facing. Rotating the map only serves to disorient further. Frankly, the map is about as effective for navigation as a d'Anjou pear.
One of the worst features of this game is the incorporation of the "retard" button, a single button that performs nearly all of the platform movements like climbing, jumping, etc. While this button scheme is a blessing for those players out there who have accidentally gotten four of the five digits on their right hand lopped off in a tragic mishap, it is a nightmare of frustration for those of us who still possess five fingers and an opposable thumb. Not only does it place massive limitations on what your character can actually do, it means that you must accomplish jumps over deadly traps with a button which will act as a combat "block" until you are at the very edge of something jumpable, in which case it will change to a "jump" button at the very last moment. This sort of thing will cause you to die a lot in the same place, and that's never a good thing.
You encounter a fair amount of enemies throughout The Mummy Returns. Expect to see every denizen of negative energy that populated the movie; the game follows the movie fairly faithfully. However, the computer AI is as weak as H. Ross Perot after a couple deep knee bends. Opponents will sometimes stand still, seemingly unconcerned about being perforated with bullets, or they will run right past you and keep going. Stupid enemies just add to the game's brevity and redundancy.
The game doesn't even have an opening cinema to recommend it, which is pretty pathetic for a vehicle based on a film filled with computer animation. What we do get is a long-winded monologue and a smattering of sad looking computer generated lead-in scenes voiced by a bunch of people who were not in the movie. Characters don't move their mouths when they talk and they bob their heads around like Thunderbird puppets. The lack of any extras completes the effect - this game plays like an afterthought.
Recommending this game for a rental would be giving it too much credit. It's not fun and does no credit to its big screen sibling. Save your money for something less painful, like a bikini wax or unanaesthetized dental surgery.