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Tutankham Reviewed by Adam Wallace on . Rating: 57%
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  • Review Score:

  • C+
No matter the era, no matter the console, there's always been that one game that EVERYONE owned. I'm not talking about games packed in with the console like Combat or Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt. I'm talking about games that, for one reason or another, everyone just had. Everyone who had the Nintendo Entertainment System had Contra, everyone who had the Sega CD had Sonic CD, and everyone who had the Atari 2600 had Tutankham.

The fact that everyone I knew back in the day who had the VCS had Tutankham baffles me to this day. I still don't know why everyone had it as the game really was nothing special. The game itself revolves around descending into four tombs navigating mazes, collecting treasures, and shooting various creatures. As far as arcade ports go, the 2600 version is far removed from the original. Unlike the arcade version which had the mazes scrolling horizontally, the levels created for the Atari version scrolled vertically. While that was no doubt done because it was less taxing on the hardware, the problem was that your tomb raider character couldn't shoot up or down, only left or right. Since the majority of enemies in this one would approach from above or below, that artificially inflated the difficulty as far as I'm concerned. Sure, you have flash bombs to get you out of a tight spot, but forcing people to rely on them that way is just cheap. There were also issues with the controls as your character can get stuck in monster nests and have trouble getting through the teleporters.

Tutankham (Atari 2600)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Maybe its popularity was due to the aesthetics as it was an impressive looking and sounding 2600 release. The mazes are bright and colorful with cool gradient shading throughout. All the characters and objects are easily identifiable, and the colorful strobe effect used when the exit is reached is always great to see. There's a wide variety of sound effects and musical cues used throughout the game, and they all sound excellent for the time. Even the pitter-patter sound used for the raider's footsteps sound subtly different every level which is a very nice touch.

I will admit that I enjoyed the Atari 2600 version of Tutankham when I was a kid, and it will always hold a nostalgic charm with me even now. That said, it did have its share of unique issues, and it's definitely inferior to the arcade version as well as the versions on the other second-gen consoles which were closer to the original. It's not bad at all, but it's not great, either. I still don't know why every 2600 owner had it back then, and I guess I'll never know. Maybe everyone just liked the cool cover art.
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