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Retrospective: Oh Mummy! - Gem Software (1984)



Hello everyone, welcome to the second of my "Retrospective" series, in which I look back on some of the games that made my childhood but that won't get official reviews here on the website (although I might make videos on my YouTube channel).


We continue today with Oh Mummy a maze game developed and published by Gem Software in 1984 under the Sinclair Research banner. Gem Software are also responsible for developing the Roland series (Roland Goes Digging, Roland In Time), as well as Disco Dan, a game that I also had as a kid back in the 80s.

The inlays for Roland Goes Digging (CPC), Roland In Time (CPC) and Disco Dan (ZX Spectrum)


In fact, my history with both Disco Dan and Oh Mummy goes back to the Christmas I received the ZX Spectrum as a present. The computer came with a collection of games from Gem Software and also another developer called Mr. Micro. While Gem Software was responsible for the aforementioned titles, Mr. Micro was responsible for luminaries like Treasure Island and Punchy. We'll get to those games in due time. But back to Oh Mummy, the object of today's retrospective. I have a particular fondness for this game, that I perhaps don't have for the other games I listed above (even though I objectively enjoy some of them more than Oh Mummy). That is because it's the only game my mum would play. She didn't exactly approve of video games (computer games back in those days) but she didn't take them away from us either. However, every now and again she would sit down at the desk and play Oh Mummy. And I was very proud of those moments. "Load up Oh Mummy for me," she would say. And she would sit for a while enjoying the heck out of the game. There's no doubt that I enjoyed Gem Software's gem (pun intended) back in the day. But how does it stack up today? Let's find out.


Let's start from the top, the inlay (reproduced below). It shows two cartoony looking human characters (a man and a woman) being scared by two mummies (the undead kind) as they attempt to steal the treasure from the chest shown in the inlay. For some reason they are wearing Roman type garb, even though the game takes place (at least in my head canon) in the hey day of tomb excavation, the 1920s and 30s. Next to the chest stands a gold jewel encrusted goblet and what appears to be a gold ring. Notice as well that the mummies themselves don't look as cartoony as the humans. I like the background with the hieroglyphics, as well as the lamp over the tomb entrance; the way it throws light and shadow onto the scene is very effective. All in all, then, it's not a bad looking inlay.

The game's inlay...


Onto the game itself. Load it up to get to the title screen and the iconic Oh Mummy music starts to play (I've had it stuck in my head for the better part of 40 years now, and I still hum it from time to time). As far as I understand it, the music is from the children's song, "The Streets of Cairo, or the Poor Little Country Maid, but I haven't verified it myself. The title screen is basically the in-game matrix or grid, with the middle three squares of the second row, and the all five squares of the third row, taking up the actual game title. In each of the four corners are collectable items that you would do well to pick up during gameplay, and in the case of the mummy sarcophagus (top-left) and key (bottom-right) essential to progress through the game. You can see that the graphics are very simple and nothing to write home about, even for a Speccy title. Squares with no items in them are the usual monochrome colour. Squares that do hold an item do gain a colour: purple (treasure), mummy and key (green), scroll (blue). Simple but effective.

The title screen in all it's glory...


By-pass the title screen and you'll get to the high-score table. From here you can either press I to read the instructions or P to begin to start the game. With regards to the former, there's four pages of instructions, which is amazing for such a simple game. With regards to the latter, pressing P will allow you to change the controls, should you so wish, as well as select the difficulty and speed of the game (I recommend starting with 1 and 1 respectively to familiarise yourself with the game). The default controls are A = Up, Z = Down, K = Left, L = Right. I do find changing these to the cursor keys to be a little bit easier, but it's up to you.

The high score table...


Let's get into the story and gameplay next. You play an archaeologist sent to the pyramids of Egypt to look for hidden treasure. The matrix that makes up the in-game grid basically represents a tomb located inside a pyramid. A complete pyramid consists of five tombs or levels, after which the British Museum announces the successful excavation of an Ancient Egyptian tomb. Then you enter another, more difficult pyramid, and another five levels await. And so on. The main objective in each level is to collect the mummy and key and escape via the exit in the bottom-right of the screen, and only by acquiring these two items then can you proceed to the next level. If you're lucky you'll also collect hidden treasure for more points. If you're unlucky, you'll wake up another of the pyramid's guardians (basically mummies). You see, you start the first level with a guardian already on your tail. However, there's a square with a hidden second guardian within the level, and uncovering it means you'll have two mummies chasing after you! You can somewhat mitigate this by finding the scroll, but it only kills one mummy and only works once anyway, nor does it transfer over to the next level. Any guardians that survive the level you're on, follow you to the next one, too! At some point, and especially in later levels, you could well have four or five guardians after you!

The controls configuration screen...


And how do you uncover the secrets of the pyramid tombs you may ask. Well, you uncover squares by walking fully along all four sides; doing so leaves footprints behind (which are the white dots you see on-screen). It's not enough to stop 3/4 through a side, it won't count. Along the way, you'll uncover the aforementioned hidden treasure and scroll. The more squares you uncover, the greater the number of points you gain. However, be wary of uncovering the secret guardian (you'll see the square turn red and the mummy come out of it). The more levels you pass, the more guardians you'll have to contend with. Plus not all squares will have a hidden object.

The in-game grid with everything uncovered... the red square points to the location of the hidden guardian...


And that's about it, really. The graphics are quite simplistic - the mummies look like yellow skull and crossbones, and you can barely tell that the archaeologist has an explorer's hat on. Plus there's no in-game music to speak of. But this game has it where it counts. It oozes charm and charisma, and the gameplay is simple but effective, and very addictive. If you haven't had a chance to play this one yet, I highly recommend giving it a go.

The press release that greets you after having cleared 5 levels...

And that about does it for this second retrospective. I hope you've enjoyed reading and that you'll join me for the next one. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any suggestions, comments, or tips for improvement. Until next time, bye for now.

The in-game instructions in full...






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