Ankh, a 2005 comedic point-and-click adventure set in ancient Egypt, got onto the Stack in a roundabout way. It has two sequels, which somehow wound up in my Steam library, probably through some kind of adventure game bundle. I naturally wanted to play the first game before trying either of those, but strangely, it wasn’t on Steam, so I went and found a copy on disc, probably from ebay. Some time later, before I got around to even removing the shrink wrap, it got put on Steam anyway, as an “Anniversary Edition”. And that’s what I’ve started playing now. The disc remains untouched.

I hadn’t heard of the Ankh series before it got steamed, but it was a hit in Germany, according to Wikipedia. Also from there I learn that the 2005 version is a remake of a 1998 game for the Acorn Archimedes. I have found essentially no other information about the original version, and how the 2005 version changes it. I assume that the graphics, at least, were completely redone. They’re completely 3D-modeled, something that the Archimedes could hardly support.

Its aim is fairly transparent: it wants to be Monkey Island But In Egypt. So everything is kind of cartoony and stylized, with rampant anachronisms and no attempt at historical accuracy. Egypt, it seems to me, is more prone to this than most places; the popular imagination in the West tends to compress literally thousands of years into a single concept of “ancient times”, as if the building of the great pyramids, the reign of Cleopatra, and the historically dubious exodus of the Jews all happened simultaneously. And once ancient times are over, it’s as if history somehow just stops happening to the place. That is the milieu of this game: Egypt Without Research.

It does a pretty good job of aping Monkey Island, though — possibly a better job than some of the later Monkey Island games — at least in terms of tone and rhythm. One thing struck me as particularly Monkey Island-ish: the use of multiple NPCs to deliver semi-contradictory fragments of backstory that mesh into a complete picture. In Monkey Island, this was how you learned about LeChuck. In Ankh, there’s this whole deal with a recent failed attack by pirates (just in case you hadn’t made the Monkey Island connection yet) inadvertently driving crocodiles into the palace grounds.


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