Remember that scene in The Mummy where a beetle ends up inside that dude and you can see it crawling around under his skin? That’s always stuck with me as really gross and creepy, even though the CGI was embarrassingly bad by today’s standards and it’s physically impossible. Well, those freaky little bugs are all over the menus in developer Trigger Happy’s Escape from Doom (out now, $0.99). They scurry around the walls in the background, and it’s a nice touch. Unfortunately, they aren’t the only bugs in the game. (Yes, that was a long walk.) The worst part, however, is that even if all the glitches were fixed tomorrow, you’d still be left with what turns out to be a fairly uninspired Into the Dead clone.
Pik Pok’s free-to-play zombie runner from last year felt like a much needed breath of fresh air in a genre that was feeling old and creaky even back then. Instead of running straight ahead in an over-the-shoulder view like Temple Run or side to side in a 2D scroller like Canabalt, in ITD you were running over a vast plain in first-person. It seems like a small change, but it felt a bit freer, and the dark atmosphere was unarguably one of the best for any simple runner. Escape tries its darnedest to copy the formula, but unfortunately makes no effort to bring anything new to spice it up. (Well, there are mummies instead of zombies, I guess, but aren’t they basically the same anyway?)
So here’s how it works: You’ve just stolen treasure from some ancient tomb and are trying to escape. Unfortunately, it turns out there are mummies all over the place and if you run into one you’re dead. If a mummy just scrapes you, however, a spray of what can only be described as grape juice splatters across the screen. Luckily there are urns all over the sand containing emeralds which can be used to unlock perks and weapons. Occasionally you’ll find a key, which is handy because there are also quite a few treasure chests around containing guns. Of course, if all you did was run across the desert shooting mummies and grabbing urns that’d get old pretty quick. That’s where the mission system comes into play.
Just like Into the Dead (and most other endless runners) you have the option of completing various missions, in this case to level up. Each time you finish three you’ll gain a level and usually unlock something nifty. Along with a small variety of guns is a pretty wide range of useful perks, like faster running and more ammo. Finally, you can unlock slots (up to three) for carrying these perks with you into the fray. As with most of these sorts of games, you have the option of speeding things up by paying hard earned emeralds to unlock any of these things early.
As for those bugs. There aren’t very many of them, thankfully, but they are pretty noticeable nonetheless. One that rears its head fairly regularly is what I like to call the ol’ Mummy Trip. Off in the distance you’ll see a zombie mummy shambling toward you, and when it gets within 20 feet or so, it’s suddenly crawling on the ground. It doesn’t really affect gameplay (other than making it slightly easier, I guess, since you can just walk over them) but it’s still pretty weird. It also happens the other way around sometimes, with a crawling mummy suddenly upright. Another time I was just about to enter a temple and I was suddenly outside the temple in Nothingland, running outside the level for about a minute. Again, not game-breaking exactly, but odd.
Ultimately, how much fun you have with Escape from Doom will hinge on which other runners you’ve played and enjoyed. For instance, if you liked Into the Dead but thought to yourself “man, I wish this had mummies” then you’re gonna love this. Or if you’ve never played ITD at all and the idea seems totally new, it’s not a bad riff on the endless running formula. People expecting something better than a virtual re-skin of a freemium game, however, are going to be a little disappointed.
iFanzine Verdict: Trigger Happy’s Escape from Doom is a very competent runner. It looks great, controls well, and has a fun mission system. Unfortunately, it’s a little buggy at the moment and does very little to distinguish itself from its obvious inspiration, Into the Dead. That game with its dark fog and glowing eyes absolutely nailed the atmosphere, which Escape doesn’t quite live up to. The former also has various other modes and extras (like a sweet zombie attacking dog!) which make Trigger Happy’s game feel a little bare bones compared to its free competitor. But boy, if you’re into mummies, I’ve got the game for you.