Chucky Mendoza and the Curse of the Pharaoh

A game by {ths} for PC and Mac, originally released in 2014.
Chucky Mendoza and the Curse of the Pharaoh is an experiment in retro game design, harkening back to classic 80’s computer games, particularly Pharaoh’s Curse, from which this title borrows its overall structure, visual design, and numerous gameplay elements, even going so far as to reproduce many of its stage layouts outright. In fact, the games are so similar that Chucky Mendoza could almost be seen as a remake, and it explains the inclusion of “Curse of the Pharaoh” in the game’s title.

The primary difference between Chucky Mendoza and his spiritual predecessor is that the pace has been slowed considerably and Chucky does not have any offensive capabilities. As such, the game has a greater emphasis on exploration over action, as players spend most of their energies avoiding enemies and traps rather than blasting away at endless streams of mummies and pharaohs.

Pharaoh’s Curse

Chucky Mendoza

Chucky has a 1.5x jump. As the game is block-based, this means that he is fully capable of mounting single blocks, but cannot reach platforms that are two or more blocks in height. Chucky can also duck, which may be put to use to avoid bats, and ducking on a sloped surface causes him to slide downhill, although this is not a required technique.

Running down a sloped surface causes Chucky to build up speed, which he retains for as long as he keeps moving – even through screen transitions – wearing off only if he jumps, falls, or runs into an enemy or solid object. There is one point in the game where this technique is required to advance, but it is otherwise optional.

The world is made up of a series of interconnected rooms which may be tackled in any order, as the world is completely open and nonlinear. Oddly, rooms do not always line up perfectly, so you may exit a room from two different doors on the same wall, only to find that they do not lead to the same place. Also, retracing your steps through an opening sometimes places you back in a different room than the one you left.

The only thing blocking your progress is the occasional locked door, which may be overcome with a key. You may only carry a single key in your inventory, but they respawn when you leave an area and return. Also, keys are found in abundance throughout the pyramid, so it’s rare that you will encounter a door that you cannot pass. Regardless, you may skip locked areas and continue your exploration, returning to the area at a later time.

There are occasional one-way barriers that prevent backtracking, although moving into previous areas is generally confined by gravity… namely, you fall down into a room with no way to get back to the top. However, the rooms in the pyramid are linked together in a loop, so you may run to the left or right and sometimes find yourself wrapping back around to your original position. Falling off the bottom of the screen in one room will drop you harmlessly into the next, and you will eventually warp back around to the top of the pyramid, allowing you to repeat previously explored areas to take new paths and search for additional treasures.

Everything you encounter kills you instantly, although most enemies follow a simple patrol path. Mummies and bugs move back and forth and must be jumped over. Most bats move horizontally or vertically, although there are some with more complex paths. The most complex enemy is the pharaoh type, called Anubis, which will seek out your position on the X-axis. You can use this behavior to lure Anubis away from certain areas, or off a ledge.

Any enemy you touch will kill you instantly, respawning you back at the entrance of the room if you have any lives remaining, and turning you into a skeleton if you do not. Additional dangers include pools of lava and numerous traps that will spring a moment after you step on them. These traps are generally placed at the bottom of shafts where you must time your jump properly to land on infinitely-spawning elevator blocks.

The game features 15 treasures spread throughout the game world, and a number of enemies and obstacles blocking your path. You only have three chances to find the 15 treasures, or it’s back to the beginning of the game with you. That’s right, there are no save points or infinite continues here… Lose your lives and you have to start the game again, hopefully wiser and more cautious on your next attempt. Like many computer games of old, the game only offers about 10-15 minutes of total content, but this is extended through repeated gameplay.

Chucky Mendoza and the Curse of the Pharaoh was developed by Thomas Schostok, based in Essen, West Germany, under his {ths} label. Thomas created the game in his spare time, designing the game and creating all of the assets, aside from the title music, which was composed by Curtis Wolf, a.k.a. Curtithird. Thomas developed the game using Stencyl, a program that allows game development without the need to write code. Sound effects were created using Bfxr, a free sound effects generation tool.