The arcane ruins of ancient Egypt have been a pop culture staple since the early days of Hollywood. Pictures set in the land have been consistently made since at least the 1920s, mostly revolving around the Pharaoh's power or the legend of the curse of the mummy, which is usually seen coming back to life to enact its revenge on the looters (or archeologists) that dared to enter their final resting place. The level's name is actually based on the infamous Tutankhamun, the historical figure that is mostly associated with the malediction due to several members of the team that unearthed his tomb meeting their deaths (or experiencing general misfortune) shortly afterwards, and several references to him are made both by depicting the king as the main icon on the menu screen, including him in the background imagery, referencing his nickname in a visual gag and possibly as the face depicted in the Wall Monster enemy.
The most evident inspiration behind the Tut TV design is the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, in yet another nod to the Indiana Jones franchise following the original Gex's Indiana Gecko enemy and Gex: Enter the Gecko's Aztec 2 Step bonus level. The level's second mission tasks the player with releasing the spirits trapped within three lost arks by defeating a fictional representation of the Egyptian deity Anubis, a direct reference to the four statues of the god found in the Well of the Souls (where the Ark of the Covenant was stored) and the death of antagonist René Emile Belloq and his entourage by opening the relic in the climax of the film. The design, however, was altered to replace the ornaments on top of the box with profiles of Gex himself, which bear a degree of resemblance to the cherubs of the movie version when seen from an angle. Generic textures depicting the outline of a pharaoh's head (which are reused throughout the walls of the level) are also placed on the box's sides. The reason behind these changes is unexplained, it may have been due to cosmetic design reasons or to avoid controversy by adding religious elements (this reasoning, however, would ignore that historical figure and biblical prophet Moses is referenced a number of times in the same level). Once opened, the Lost Arks can be destroyed, despite being plot devices. Another direct reference to Raiders of the Lost Ark takes place in the first mission, when the player is tasked with recovering three Staffs of Ra scattered throughout the level. These items bear a striking resemblance to the eponymous item featured in the film, down to releasing a focused light beam from its headpiece.
Death traps, scarabs and sand traps are included in Tut TV's design, as they had become cliches of Egyptian stereotypes decades before the 1990s. The giant spider enemy may be a reference to the 1943 film Tarzan’s Desert Mystery, which despite not being set in Egypt does take place in an arid setting and depicts a similar-looking oversized arachnid. Curiously, the mummy archetype in the level incorporates elements from a completely unrelated genre -martial arts films- adopting the crane kick of Karate Kid fame. Other than this, the word is used due to its nature as an homonym to "mommy" in a background joke. Other throwaway gags include random references to classic film King Kong (or his tomb), roman emperor Caligula, chiropractice and the regions of Giza (or its landmark, the Great Pyramid of Giza) and Cairo, all scattered throughout the level.
Adorning the floor and walls are hieroglyphics adorning the walls. These are divided in several categories: those that depict deities such as Anubis or Thoth; those that try to mimic actual inscriptions by depicting the eye of Horus, ankh symbol (also referenced in a gag panel), beetles, celestial bodies or the pyramid itself; actual real-life depictions of lower-class Egyptians/pharaoh and the entire judgement scene from Hunefer's book of the dead; those depicting portrayals of Gex, Rex and a grey alien (a reference to a number of "ancient alien" theories about the building of the pyramids) as hieroglyphs; those depicting out-of-place artifacts such as cars, telephones or the peace symbol; and lastly, those depicting gameplay elements such as TV sets or fly tokens. Sarcophagi, a variety of statues and busts complete the backgrounds, tough only a minority can be interacted with (those that are breakable conceal collectibles). Telephone booths, hotdog stands, soda vending machines, porta-potties and snake charmer's baskets contain fly tokens.
- Holy Moses!
- Recover the 3 Staffs of Ra
- Release the Spirits from Three Lost Arks
- Ride the Camel to the Ancient Temple
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