Teaching children how to gamble is cool, right? If you are hoping to get rich quick this side of the Nile then I highly recommend playing the DVD board game Khufu the Mummy. So … What do pyramid casinos have to do with the Atmosfear mythos anyway? Well, instead of traversing those graveyard cobblestones on The Other Side to collect keys and face fears, this sequel to the 2004 Nightmare reboot is all about scarab beetles and scoring treasure.
The cinematic introduction to this interactive adventure is quite amusing when you consider the dark humour. Before The Great Pharaoh introduces himself properly we are treated to a CGI guided tour of Khufu's casino, a pyramid that comprises four distinct chambers. When the outer pyramid walls close, however, animated punters on the ground level seem to be squished. Was this visual gag intentional? I doubt it. Although, it is hilarious to think that our Egyptian host would slaughter dozens of gamblers on a whim. This is as dark as the game gets.
Image via YouTube
Fans of the classic VHS era may find this incarnation of the game to be far too whimsical. And that's ok. This is a fun romp for the kids. Khufu's demeanour is even goofier than the Gatekeeper's last appearance.
The Aim of the Game
To win: beat the tables in each chamber of Khufu's casino and then defeat The Great Pharaoh at his own ultimate challenge in under 45 minutes.
What I said about gambling before was not an exaggeration. It's all about the bling-bling (or in this case, the treasure-treasure). Your first goal is to collect as many treasure cards as you can by landing on those dollar-dollar spaces. Watch out for the snake squares; unlucky players pick up curse cards and declare their bad news to the group. There are also spaces that allow players to steal treasure from others. Consider karma before you engage in theft because if you nab a treasure card with a cobra on it then you will actually lose a bit of your accumulated wealth as a consequence.
Remember how there are four different chambers in the casino? Well, each chamber has a base that fits into the centre of the play area. These are the spaces that you need to visit in order to wager bets. The idea is that when you win the gambling conditions at that particular table for the first time you can place a scarab beetle in that chamber. If you manage to place a scarab beetle in each of the four chambers then you can attempt to challenge Khufu by finding his sarcophagus.
Of course, it's not as simple as rolling in the money and placing bets. Khufu will often interrupt the game to play tricks and to mess with the players. These disruptions are usually entertaining however he has a tendency to confuse players by saying weird stuff that doesn't actually mean anything. This kind of nonsense breaks immersion because we had to stop sometimes to recall what was said to make sure we didn't miss anything important.
All Bets Are Off
The gambling gameplay mechanic is both exciting and frustrating. Given the tight time constraints, everyone is rushing to place bets before our bandaged harbinger pops up to talk some more smack. If you are playing with competitive people then be prepared for frenetic pacing and rude behaviour.
This tension, however, is all for nought when Khufu decides to make the game super-duper easy in the last ten minutes of the game. The Great Pharaoh becomes the most generous casino owner ever by handing out free scarab beetles. It is, therefore, quite difficult to lose. Again, this is a game best played with young folk.
Maybe it is a blessing that there were no more spin-off Atmosfear titles to follow. Khufu the Mummy is a fun diversion however it does not have the same appeal or longevity that its predecessors offer. This is mainly due to the overarching bet/wager mechanic that feels a little out of place for a game that should be fast and simple to play. Also, Khufu's narration gets a little same-old and predictable after subsequent playthroughs. Regardless of all the negative talk, give it a go.
The hardcore VHS coterie would prefer a grim, serious host rather than a family-friendly chump. If you are a fan of the classic Nightmare at least you have our own gatekeeper, zombie, witch and vampire tapes to enjoy.
Then again, I could really dig a family-friendly Hellin the poltergeist board game that involves the innovative use of magnets to simulate telekinesis …