Pharonic

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
Pharonic Game Poster Image
Average combat-heavy action in ancient Egypt can be tough.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Although you're fighting for your freedom, you do it by literally killing everything, everyone you come across.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Player motivations aren't fleshed out beyond most basic plot points to get you pumped for revenge. 

Ease of Play

Straightforward controls, but game is brutally challenging. 

Violence

Blood, gore flies during, after each fight. Cartoony, but still excessive. 

Language

"S--t," variations of this word pop up in written dialogue at times.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Pharonic is a downloadable side-scrolling action game set in ancient Egypt about a slave who escapes his captors to rise up and seek revenge against the Red Pharaoh. It draws inspiration from other action games that place heavy emphasis and difficulty on fighting, such as Dark Souls and old-school video games, which means progress is incremental and comes extremely slowly. The further on you press, the more skills you can learn and the more refined strategy you can devise based on the weapons and armor you discover. This provides different ways to think of how you fight and whether to fight at all. There's a lot of blood and gore, and, while cartoonish, it's excessive. There also are some instances of "s--t" that pop up, mainly in written dialogue.

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What's it about?

The story of PHARONIC is not exceedingly deep but it certainly gets the job done for the sort of video game it is: You play as a slave whose goal is seeking freedom from and revenge against the Red Pharaoh. Along the way, you'll cross blades with nefarious traps, persistent enemies with spears and swords, and a winding world map that from time to time will have you meet merchants, vendors, and other imprisoned people asking favors of you. You won't exactly learn a refined history of ancient Egypt, but you'll gain passing familiarity with motifs and themes that intersect with that time, such as philosophies about the underworld and the afterlife.

Is it any good?

This adventure is one of those games that's easy to pick up and play but likely will cause frustration in anyone trying to see it through to the end. The game's straightforward, decidedly non-dazzling looks hide an incredible difficulty with which you'll be greeted upon your first fight. The difficulty comes about from a few places, mainly from clunky and sticky controls. Technically, it's meant to encourage you to play more tactfully and carefully. Unfortunately, because of your limited stamina, with every move sapping your energy, you'll frequently find yourself cornered by two or more enemies, not able to attack as quickly as your foes. It's frustrating, but not the kind of frustrating you can have an ironclad defense against. Sooner or later, you'll have to die to learn that you should come back to this area later or try a different approach. The game takes inspiration from games such as Dark Souls -- when you die, you leave behind a ball of all your experience you've earned so far, meaning you'll have to risk coming back to where you were killed to scoop it up before it disappears forever.

Although the game looks like a side-scrolling game, the world is actually in 3D. Many corridors or paths you come across that show up in the background can actually be explored. That means you can quickly wind up getting lost, but you could also discover a new or different area leading to a much-needed weapon or shield. The result means there's a fair amount of backtracking you'll need to do. Although this is eased with occasional shrines that let you teleport around, by and large you're running around, exploring, and hoping you don't cross paths with too many enemies that will kill you easily. The game has its share of flaws, but the tension and fun of finding a new place and winning a battle will keep you on your toes and remind you why you keep pressing on. It's far from perfect but still a decent outing that is worth a shot if you're a big fan of the time period or just itching for a challenge. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in games such as Pharonic. While the gore is cartoonish, should it be included at all? Is there a problem with excessive gore with this game?

  • Talk about similarity in game settings. Does it matter if games such as Pharonic choose to draw inspiration from another time period if the action and things you do in it still largely resemble games set in modern or even futuristic settings? Does the time period really say anything unique if the rest of the game looks and feels familiar?

  • Discuss ancient Egypt in the context of the present world. How can learning more about the past teach us more about understanding the present and where it might be headed? 

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