Mangahigh.com // March 2009 – September 2009
Pyramid Panic is the first Mangahigh game I genuinely consider ‘mine’. Previous titles BIDMAS Blaster, Flower Power and Save Our Dumb Planet were already in development when I joined the company, and although I did a lot of design and production work on them I never really felt like I was in full control of them.
The basic concept came from an idea of Dr Richard Lissaman’s that involved rolling barrels down ramps and into buckets, which was cool in principle but a little ‘flat’ as the player lacked the opportunity to make interesting choices. After some discussion, I came up with the idea of an Indiana Jones-esque adventurer escaping a pyramid pursued by a mummy, with the player solving math problems to create magical walkways in front of the fleeing hero (i.e. essentially the game as it is now).
Over time, the storyline got turned on its head following input from Dr Snezana Lawrence, who suggested making the mummy the hero. The idea was that the mummy was the undead form of a murdered pharaoh, desperate to escape the pyramid and right the wrong against him, and the pursuer was now Ammit, an underworld demon from ancient Egyptian mythology.
Coding was handled by the simply amazing Jan Rigerl, who went on to work on many Mangahigh titles and also coded the wrapper. Jan is possibly the most talented and amenable coder I’ve ever had the privilege of working with, always ready and willing to go that extra mile to make the game as good as it could be. Honestly, the guy deserves a medal for the incredible work he did.
Pyramid Panic proved a big hit with players – it was always a thrill watching kids squirm with excitement as Ammit closed in on the hapless mummy! That said, looking back it’s clear that the game’s not perfect – it’s essentially a multiple-choice quiz, for starters, and progress was limited by your maths knowledge (for example, the last zone was all about trigonometry, so if you hadn’t been taught that you were stuffed).
And frankly, I was never too sure about the revised scenario: although more colourful and rich historically, it lacked clairity – you ‘get’ an adventurer running away from a mummy instantly, but mummys running away from demons needs a little more explanation. Still, the kids never seemed too fazed by it so no harm done.