Developed by Konami in 1982, Tutankham is maze shooter 8 bit computer game where the player takes on the role as a grave robber in the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Without wanting to give away my exact age, I will tell you that I was a kid who lived through the 80’s.
I played most if not all of the classic 8-bit games either in the arcade or on home systems of the era.
And sure, whilst everyone is familiar with famous 8 bit games such as Pac-Man and Space Invaders, one of the real joys associated with this website is when I re-discover a cool 8 bit game which I had long since forgotten.
This is exactly what happened, as one of those games I happily re-discovered just happens to be Konami’s Tutankham.
I can recall playing this game on a sit down table top machine when it was first released in the early 80’s.
My father owned one of those small corner stores which every neighbourhood seemed to have, and every 6 months the solitary arcade machine in the store would be rotated out for a new one.
Tutankham (yes, that is how it is spelt), is a side scrolling maze shooting game themed on raiding lost treasure tombs of Ancient Egypt.
In a nut shell, the game requires you to navigate your way through a maze from left to right (various Egyptian tombs and chambers), collecting optional treasures such as rings and crowns, and either avoiding or shooting your adversaries along the way.
To progress to the next level, you have to locate a key and get to the locked door situated on the far-right hand side of the maze.
Later mazes are larger and more complex and have multiple locks on the door which means you are required to find more than one key – the catch being you can only pick up and carry one key at a time.
Your character – a little red hat wearing treasure hunter / explorer type dude, is depicted in spritely 8 bit fashion and can only shoot his weapon (laser gun) sideways left or right, not up or down in the maze.
On the top left-hand side of the screen is a timer, if the timer reaches zero then you lose your ability to fire your weapon and it subsequently becomes a desperate game of cat and mouse to make it through to the end.
Like most other 80’s 8 bit games you are awarded bonus points for any time remaining on completion of each level.
Another tool in your arsenal is a ‘flash bomb’ (smart bomb represented by a ‘genie lamp’ at the top of the screen) which can be used once per level.
Activating the smart bomb destroys all enemies that happen to be on screen at that time.
Also along the top of the screen is a radar ‘map’ which shows the layout of the maze and location of enemies.
At various points within the maze there are ‘teleports’ which as you would expect, warp you to another area of the maze.
Your enemies spawn or materialize out of clouds of smoke from set locations, typically little alcoves within the maze.
Having just read the description of the gameplay mechanics Tutankham doesn’t sound entirely inspiring or original does it?
But get this, it is original because the game was released way back in 1982 when these gameplay concepts were released for the first time.
There are only four set mazes / levels in Tutankham, but don’t let that fool you as the game is very hard, and very challenging.
Here are what treasures lay behind the locked door at the end of each level.
- Stage 1 – map
- Stage 2 – golden urn
- Stage 3 – treasure chest
- Stage 4 – death mask of Tutankhamun
Upon completion of the fourth level the game repeats from level 1, but with increased speed and quantity of enemies. Speaking of enemies, below is a list of adversaries that you will encounter throughout the tombs and their corresponding point value;
- Green asps – 20 points
- Brown vultures – 40 points
- Yellow dragons – 40 points
- Multicolored parrots – 40 points
- Bats – 60 points
- Spinning ‘curse’ – 60 points
The treasures you collect along your travels (rings or gold crowns) vary in points, ranging anywhere from 500 points on the first maze to 4000 points on the last (fourth maze).
Locating a key will earn you 500 points and actually using it on a locked door will earn you another 1000 points.
One of the things I really liked about this game when it was first released (and still do now) is the music and sound effects.
An eerie Egyptian like ditty plays when you manage to unlock a door to each new maze and the sound the enemies make as they spawn from a cloud of smoke is cool.
Visually the game is decent – the ‘attract mode’ on display when no-one is playing has cool glowing / neon like visual effects lighting up the word ‘Tutankham’, and a timber door would open to reveal the famous Tutankhamun death mask in bright, colourful gold.
In this day and age it is going to sound comical but another major appeal of the game was simply to see what treasure was revealed at the end of each maze.. oooh a golden urn!.. wow, a treasure chest!.. look the mask of Tutankhamun!.. ah such simpler times.
Tips & Trivia
- Beware of some dodgy sprite collision / detection in this game. I do recall I would get frustrated as occasionally enemies would walk through my laser bullets and kill me – especially the speedy bats! Try to maintain a healthy firing distance at all times.
- Flash bombs – if you don’t use it these accumulate for subsequent levels. Try to save them up so you have more than one available for the later, more difficult stages.
- Patience is a virtue, especially when near an area with enemies that constantly re-spawn. Wait for your gap between re-spawning (often only two or three seconds) then go for it.
- Whilst patience is a virtue, always keep one eye on the timer – remember when it clocks down to zero you lose your ability to shoot and completing the maze becomes infinitely more difficult.
One of the first questions people always ask is about the spelling of this game.
I have read elsewhere that the full proper word ‘Tutankhamun’ would not fit across the side of the arcade machine cabinet so it was simply shortened to ‘Tutankham’.
I’m not sure how much truth there is to this though as it results in a space saving of only 2 letters.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it was simply a spelling anomaly / lost in translation from Japanese to English as often occurred in 80’s 8-bit games.