Ankh Guardian – Treasure of the Demon’s Temple Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Tom Create
Publisher: Tom Create
Release Date: July 4th 2019
Price as of Article:
$7.99 $5.59, £5.89 £4.12
Sale lasts until July 25th 2019
Download Size: 434 MB
Our story begins long ago, when gods still ruled all. The beloved god Farasis is murdered by the feared god Zemet, ushering in an age of darkness. Mustering the last of his strength, Farasis then forges a magical sword.
One day, a youth recieves a devine message. They then set out to the Temple of Farasis to answer the god’s call…
You play as either a nameless boy or nameless girl in Ankh Guardian, of which you are given the choice between 3 skins and 2 difficulties, with more difficulties to unlock, but as for whom you play as it is purely cosmetic. I chose the boy but quickly grew tired of his plain design, so started over from the beginning as the girl, and from there my quest to save this Egyptian god began.
Ankh Guardian is an action puzzle platformer with a gimmick, in that certain outlined walls are destructible, hiding items or other stuff that you need in order to progress. You start fresh in every stage, with all weapons and extra hearts or mana you collected in the previous being stripped away from you, and so, the first thing you wanna do in each stage is to go look for a blade to defend yourself with against the evil forces of mummies, scarabs, and scorpions. Once you have obtained it, traversing the stage is going to be your next challenge. If a platform is hidden behind an already destroyed wall, you need to find a piece of wall in that same colour, in order to repair it, for the platform to move or become physical.
It works the other way around though, in that if you are able to destroy the wall behind, say a set of spikes, these won’t hurt you as long as the wall is destroyed, plus you can kill enemies if you lure them in front of a wall and destroy it.
The goal of each stage, is thus to navigate the labyrinth of platforms and other hazards, and repair every single wall in order for the end goal door to open. This requires you to occassionally do some puzzle platforming backtracking, as you need to destroy some walls, to obtain that wall piece for use on another already destroyed wall that can only be repaired with that particular colour, in order for you to gain access to something else that might help you, which is often a piece of wall to replace the one you already tore down.
The game starts off easy, with small levels that only have one colour of wall for you to worry about, but halfway to the first boss you have two colours to deal with, and a couple stages after him you have three, with the stages, of course, getting longer and longer too. There is no mini-map to keep track of where you are or remind you of that wall you left destroyed at the beginning, though I didn’t really mind.
It may all sound like tedious busywork, but I actually kinda liked this idea of puzzle solving… if only the controls weren’t so bad. Ankh Guardian works as a concept, and there is really nothing inheretly wrong with the stages themselves, but your character really could have used some extra time in the oven. If their wonky ”I just crapped myself” walking/running animation wasn’t an immediate dead giveaway, you do also feel the stiffness right away. It doesn’t break the game by any means, but it does feel very unnatural and clunky.
What you do need to watch out for though, is that if you keep running to one side, the camera will not center on you, on the contrary, it’s like the character is too fast for the screen or wants to escape the game outright, meaning you won’t be able to see incoming enemies in time to react if you do this. Now, with this being a puzzle platformer and not a Sonic game, I didn’t actually run into this theoretical issue all that often, but not having the camera focusing on your character or at least follow them, is a huge rookie mistake, even the first Super Mario Bros. did that. On top of that, some puzzle require you to roll this ball onto a switch, and while the game does give you the option to either push it or roll on top of it, it can be really finiky, and if you decide to roll on it, you automatically roll in the direction that you landed on it. You can’t change direction on it, meaning you’ll have to jump off and turn around mid-air. Adding insult to injury, you can’t even roll enemies over with it, you will just stop dead in your tracks.
Enemies do also respawn after a certain period of time, so watch out for that, especially the spear throwers. The game does tell you that you can use the right analogue stick to manipulate the camera, even while on the move, so that is useful for not getting blindsided, but I still don’t like how instead of the devs just making a proper camera, they just leave it up to you.
As you progress through the game, you will be faced with new hazards like poisonous pits and blocks on fire, the latter of which you need the upgraded water sword to deal with, which automatically also grants you a bow with ice arrows to both extinguish said fire blocks and make temporary stepping stones of walled fountains, which finally makes use of the mana bar that you for some reason have regardless if you possess something that uses it or not. You also get a set of boots that allows you to double jump, but like I said earlier, you start fresh at every stage, so any upgrades you have acquired in a certain stage, is zapped away from you upon beating it, and must then be re-acquired in the next. This goes for extra hearts and mana as well. On the flipside, if you finish a stage with less than standard health or energy, this will be refilled. See, we are merciful here.
Be careful though, as health and mana drops, within a stage, are limited and random, meaning if you use up all your mana and find yourself stuck at a place where you need it, you will have to retry the stage.
I get what they were going for here, starting every stage with a clean slate, also perhaps because they didn’t want you to be able to break previous levels with your newfound upgrades, but I honestly don’t really like it all that much. When I get an upgrade, I like to keep it, and have a nice inventory screen to keep track of my collectibles, though I guess this is more of a ”me” problem.
Speaking of collectibles, by the way, each stage features a treasure hidden behind a golden door, that you need a set amount of red orbs to obtain. These are usually not that difficult to acquire, but some, like standing still in front of a statue, which you would only know if you read a sign telling you, can be a bit cryptic. Most of them are fairly straightforward though, and some of the requirements are actually a bit fun, like escorting a cat or jumping in the air to mimmick a soaring bird. The treasure you collect is then added to your collection, which you can see in between every stage. In it also located via this large board of treasure, that you can choose to replay a stage, perhaps because you missed the treasure, or move on to the next one.
At the beginning, I was a bit puzzled as to how the whole wall gimmick worked, maybe I didn’t think the game explained it well enough, but as they say ”learning by doing”, and I did indeed quickly get the hang of it and adapt. It is a rather fun game at times, what with the whole platforming while figuring out what walls to repair or leave destroyed for now in order to progress, but as stated earlier, your character’s wacky running animation does keep reminding you of the overall subpar quality. Plus, the exposition text doesn’t even take up the entire text box, what’s up with that??
I would recommend, upon booting up the game, that you turn your TV down a notch or two, because, man, is that main menu loud, but is it catchy and upbeat too!! Rocking an Egyptian anime-esque visual style, the music, of course, had to follow, immediately also giving the audible vibes of being on a quest in ancient Egypt. There aren’t that many catchy tunes within the game itself (I guess they blew it all on the main menu) but it feels varied enough and, like I said, it does fit the theme and make the world feel believable.
Visuals & Performance
The game looks beautiful, and immediately caught my weeaboo eye with its anime icon and vibrant title font, but for the price I feared that looks might have been all there was to the game. Presenting itself with nice, warm, exotic colours in order to lure unsuspecting gamers in for some epic action, and I was half right.
While I haven’t had the game crash or had any performance issues per say, the game did, as mentioned earlier, quickly show its uglier side as soon as gameplay began. Feeling jank and unpolished in many ways that are instantly noticeable, and for a game with such a neat and clever idea, I think that is a damn shame. I really urge the developer to give the game a liiiiittle more time to cook, so that the performance can match the beautiful artstyle!
Like I said, the game drew me in with its unique visual style, but for the price, the lack of a trailer on its eShop page, and the fact that I could find next to no info on it elsewhere, let alone other reviews (at the time of writing), I figured something was off. Ankh Guardian is not a terrible game by any means, but it ain’t really good either. Sure, I managed to have some decent fun because I like crap, and the game does, with its somewhat clever gimmick, offer some good entertainment value for the price, but I still won’t fully recommend it with a straight face. There is potential for improvement, and for the bargain price, it is a cool little distraction, if you think you have the pocket change to spare, but in that case, please get it on sale.
Catchy main theme
Rough around the edges