App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Night School Studio, the developers behind the wonderfully written Oxenfree, have been making moves to take their storytelling abilities to the world of licensed games. This trend continues with the release of The Mummy Dark Universe Stories, a story-based game set in the universe of the recent The Mummy reboot film. Given Night School's past work in supernatural narratives, Dark Universe Stories sounds like it should be a home run, but the game is weirdly uneventful, poorly written, and strangely structured.
As a game, Dark Universe Stories plays much like a visual novel. Characters are illustrated on screen and speech bubbles pop up to convey what's happening at any given moment. Although the story is prone to bounce around between characters, you have some control over a character named Nick, who has somehow come across some mysterious powers that he and his crew are trying to understand and deal with.
By control, I mean that you'll occasionally be able to choose what Nick says and how he reacts to certain situations. For the most part, it feels like a Telltale game, though told through an illustrated comic book style. Also like a Telltale game, Dark Universe Stories is doled out via episodes, though this game sports a dozen chapters from the start, with most taking 10-15 minutes to get through.
Not so cryptic
Aside from simply making dialogue choices, Dark Universe Stories features some light puzzle-solving. In almost every instance, this involves just tapping around on a scene for things to interact with, which initiates further dialogue. For a game that could be full of hieroglyphics and other ancient, cryptic puzzles, tapping around a tomb until something gets highlighted to have some characters talk some more is pretty disappointing.
To the game's credit, the dialogue choices you make as Nick can lead to some pretty different and unexpected outcomes. Each episode also has three little mini-goals that you can achieve based on your responses, which add some replayability to Dark Universe Stories.
Without much in the way of puzzle-solving, Dark Universe Stories depends on its story to push players forward. This is a perfectly fine approach (and one many adveture games have been trending toward), but the writing and plot of Dark Universe Stories is so bad that it's hard to stay invested in.
Some of this has to do with how Dark Universe Stories is structured. It's a free-to-play game that gates your access to chapters over time. You can purchase your way forward immediately, but some chapters really feel like they were filler arcs designed to just set up a cliffhanger to entice you into paying. If that weren't enough, some of the writing here is downright embarassing. A lot of lines are written like poorly dictated ramblings, while others are just overwritten.
The bottom line
There isn't really much to like about Dark Universe Stories. It's a game of dialogue, story, and puzzles, and all three are underwhelming. Considering the quality of Night School Studio's past work, I was hoping they could make a cool licensed game, but they fail to deliver even when trying to play to their strengths.