Pharoah Rebirth+ | Title Image
Title Pharaoh Rebirth+
Publisher Degica
Release Date March 17, 2016
Genre Action, Adventure, Indie
Platform PC Steam
Age Rating General Audiences
Official Website

So here we have a rabbit Indiana Jones. Why is Indiana Jones a rabbit? Honestly I cannot say, but he does mention briefly that he was not always a rabbit, so he was perhaps cursed. His name is Dr. Jonathan Banfield, and while he is basically an archaeologist, he is really more of a treasure hunter. In fact, he is not very well versed on a lot of basic archaeological knowledge and relies on his cohort Jack to fill him in on the details. He also has a rival named Andre Betancourt who happens to be a turtle, no word on whether he was cursed or not. The tortoise and the hare jokes write themselves, and they do show up several times in the game. But this is not a very dialogue heavy title; this is an action platformer in the style of Super Metroid. And as a representative of that sub-genre, it is a very good example.

Pharaoh Rebirth+ | Tortoise vs Hare
Plan on seeing this reference a few times. But look at that sweet pixel art.

The story opens up with Jonathan and Andre racing to a new discovery in the Egyptian Oasis of Amshear. It turns out, however, that the sarcophagus is of the infamous Sehur I and he curses both of them to die in 7 days. Apparently it is a rather famous curse and is known to actually occur. And there is no cure for it. But Jack comes up with the idea of finding the 7 Holy Grails of Egypt in order to grant immortality so that Sehur I cannot kill you when the 7 days are up. At this point, we should remind ourselves that this is originally a Japanese indie title and that their grasp of the various mythologies of The Levant is rather minimal. So mixing in Holy Grails with Egyptian Gods can make sense, especially if you’ve seen the Indiana Jones movies one too many times. But as a modus operandi there are certainly worse. And it does give a fresh coat of paint to the metroidvania games.

Pharaoh Rebirth+ | Cramped Van
Isn’t this van a little cramped?

There is not one overall huge map like in Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, instead they use the van pictured above as a jumping off point to the various stages. However, within the stages themselves there are a lot of hidden rooms and collectibles and upgrades that you would typically find in those other two examples. And so you have a lot of reason to go back and replay levels once you have new traversal methods such as the double jump or the slide. Thankfully one very nice modern allowance is made that you can exit out of a stage that you have beaten previously through the start menu, and you will retain any of the items that you have thus far picked up. That was a huge help when I was going back through the stages to collect upgrades before taking on the final boss stage.

Pharaoh Rebirth+ | Item Menu
That is a lot of items to collect, thankfully most are optional.

There is not a large variety of enemies, but there is very little reskinning of previous ones. And the designs for all of the characters and enemies in this game are very stellar. It’s sad to say, but when I was playing this title I began to suspect that it was from Japan because of how good the pixel models and character designs were. And so I went online to find out who made the game, and sure enough, it was from Japan. Perhaps that has something to do with my own history with games, but it is still notable that Japanese developers still are so good at pixel graphics design. The bosses are more humorous than most metroidvania designs, but that is not to their detriment, they are still difficult on any mode but Easy. A particular star boss design for me was the God of War, but I wouldn’t spoil it by linking a screenshot. His design was a surprise for both the player and the characters.

Pharaoh Rebirth+ | Boss Fight
In this fable, the tortoise can use military grade hardware against the hare.

Not only is the pixel art gorgeous, as well as the enemy design, but they use inventive modern shadow techniques, scaling, and parallax scrolling to give it an extra scale of polish. It really jumps off the screen and makes the most of its setting. So while the animal forms of the protagonist and rival may be a bit puzzling, the setting of Egypt really ends up giving a lot of personality to the game. And the music really adds to that as well. It is actually one of the most standout aspects of this game. The end credits song was a pleasant surprise, but all the stage music and event music was spot on as well. It wasn’t just good enough to be passable, it’s genuinely memorable. Really this indie title has music that shames a lot of AAA games. The only aspect of the title that lacks some polish is the way that it looks when blown up to widescreen from it’s normal 480p aspect ratio. But that can have it’s own charm as well, and the Steam page says that a patch was released to address it in part.

Pharaoh Rebirth+ | Jeep Jump
Elliot traded in his bicycle for a military jeep, but will they stick the landing?

This game is not a huge one, clocking in at around 10 hours, but it was fun and interesting throughout. The stages are quite inventive and have a lot of variety, from riding vehicles to even playing as Andre instead of Jonathan (with a slightly different set of moves including the ability to throw his shell). Honestly I would have expected it to cost more than $9.99. So I consider that a bargain. I believe the + in the title refers to two additions as well. After you beat the game you are given access to a whole new stage, Las Vegas, with it’s own maniacal final boss, Anubis. Also there is a Boss Rush mode added. Be warned though, Las Vegas is a very difficult stage with checkpoints at much greater intervals than previous stages were. So even if you beat the villain of the main story, make sure you go in there with plenty of upgrades. I didn’t expect to experience such a solid entry into the metroidvania sub-genre on my PC with an XBox 360 controller in hand, but here it is. If you want to know what makes these titles beloved, this is a good entry point. And if you are already a fan of that genre, here is a great example that is set in a new environment and with fun characters.

Review Score

Review Copy Provided By The Publisher

William Haderlie
Born in the 1970's, I've been an avid participant for much of video game history. A lifetime of being the sort of supergeek entrenched in the sciences and mathematics has not curbed my appreciation for the artistry of video games, cinema, and especially literature.