I’ve always had a fascination with Ancient Egypt and when I saw Eye Of Horus on the shelves in a computer store back in the early 90’s, I had to buy it. In fact it was the first PC game I ever bought and looking back, I’m so glad I did. Being used to platform games such as Super Mario Bros, Eye Of Horus was quite a different experience to me, though.
What you wouldn’t expect from such an old title, is how Eye Of Horus approaches the platform genre in its own way. Nearly every other platform game (especially for PC) had the same clichéd ideas: a main hero with a number of lives, walking from left to right, jumping on enemies, until he reaches the next level. But EOH took a different route: the route of freeform exploration plus a hint of adventure.
Let’s start explaining the game: you, Horus, wake up in a tomb with walls full of hieroglyphs that come to life and attack you when you get close. Your goal is to bring Osiris back to life and defeat Seth, who is also residing inside this tomb. Pieces of his body are spread around the tomb which you can find by exploring, finding colour keys to operate the elevators and defeating threats along the way.
The cool thing, though, is that when you press “up”, you can transform into a falcon – you being Horus, the Falcon God, this shouldn’t come as too big a surprise. In falcon “mode”, you can fly around, shooting bolts of fire at the moving hieroglyphs which are your nemesis in this game. You can also find and pick up objects that can help you in your quest. This is where the adventure part comes in – each object has a specific use but while the manual explains its ancient significance, its use in the game is up to you to find.
Another cool part of the game is the way there are no levels, just rooms in the tomb which you can mostly visit in a non-linear fashion. You have chambers in the tomb that are interconnected with elevators and each elevator has a colour code. By picking up coloured keys, you gain access to more parts of the tomb. There’s a map to help you keep track of where to go and where you are though, so you won’t get lost.
Still, while EOH tries many new elements, there are plenty of issues with the game. For one, the hieroglyphs are the only enemy -besides the end boss Seth- which you’ll face. While there are many kinds of hieroglyphs, they still behave mostly the same. Also, most of them respawn infinitely – obviously this stops the game from being too easy, but it may also get you frustrated when you get stuck, and have to pass by the same area several times, taking damage you want to avoid.
Another problem is the sound. There’s no sound for shooting - no sound effects for anything actually. There’s PC speaker music, which can get annoying after a while, and that’s it. No SoundBlaster or Adlib support either. This is a bit disappointing, even for a game from 1989.
Graphically, this game is not that bad for its time. The atmosphere of an Egyptian tomb is quite well recreated. The many decorated walls, the sarcophaguses, the stone pillars – it really works well to put you “in character”.
While Eye Of Horus may be nearly two decades old, it was one of the few platform games that really tried a new approach. While the platform genre on consoles was becoming stagnant, EOH was willing to teach them a new thing or two. While not perfect, it’s still a fun blast, and a game I loved for a long time and in the end completed after a lot of practice. A warning though: easy, it isn’t.
Part of The 16 Bit Pocket Power Collection