Port of the 1982 Konami Coin-Op (released in the US by Stern), Tutankham is an interesting little maze game, in which you play an explorer who is must navigate through King Tut's tomb in a quest to retrieve valuable treasures and find the burial chamber of King Tutankhamun himself. In case you're wondering about the title, rumor has it that when the programmers of the arcade game decided to change the monitor orientation from horizontal to vertical, the name would no longer fit on the screen. So instead of shrinking down the font, they simply cut off the last two letters instead, changing Tutankhamun to Tutankham.
While real ancient tombs are generally devoid of any life, it wouldn't be much of a game if this was the case. So instead of simply wandering unmolested through the tomb, the player must contend with deadly cobras, bats, scorpions, and other nasty creatures that live in the tomb. Much like Gauntlet, these creatures only spawn from certain areas called nests. However unlike Gauntlet, these nests cannot be destroyed so the player must quickly navigate around them before another creature spawns.
Thankfully you did not enter the tomb unarmed. You are carrying a pistol which can be used to shoot any nasty little critters that get in your way, but you must be careful as you only have a limited amount of ammo (determined by the timer) and once it runs out, you must complete the level defenseless which is nearly impossible. Your explorer also has a flash bomb that he can use that will wipe out all the enemies on the screen. However you only get one bomb per stage, and you can't stockpile them up, so use them wisely.
Each level has a map at the top of the screen which shows where you are in the maze, where the treasures are located, and where the enemies currently are. While this map can be useful, it's usually easier to just ignore it as it is small and hard to read. There is also a timer at the top of the screen which shows how long you have to reach the end of the level. If the timer runs out you do not die like in other games, but rather you will run out of bullets. However since completing the level without bullets is nearly impossible, this is as good as dying unless you happen to be near the exit.
As you explore the tomb you will begin to notice locked doors that prevent you for going further. When this happens you must search the maze for a key to unlock the door to proceed. Since your explorer can only carry one key at a time (those must be big keys), you will be forced to backtrack a lot in the later levels where there can be as many as four locked doors. Along the way you will also notice various bits of treasure stashed away in the nooks and crannies of the maze, you can pick these up for points, but it is not required. There are also teleporters scattered around the maze which will take you from one section to another. In the higher levels some areas of the maze can only be accessed by using the correct teleporter.
There are four different levels in Tutankham each one has a different treasure at the end of the maze to discover (not to be confused with the little treasures in the maze itself). On the first stage you will find a map in the treasure chamber, there is an urn on the second level, a treasure chest on the third, and finally the golden death mask of king Tut himself on the fourth. After you have completed the fourth level, you will go back to the level one but the difficulty will be increased. The Atari 8-bit version allows the player to start at any one of the sixteen different levels (four game levels at four different difficulty levels that is), which can be handy if you want to see the higher levels but cannot get there on your own.
The arcade version used a two joystick setup similar to Robotron where one joystick moves, and the other fires. However the Atari 8-bit version does away with this and limits you firing in the same direction that you are facing. This was a common problem with many home versions of two joystick games. While some games allowed the player to use two joysticks if they desired (such as the Robotron), Tutankham is not one of them. Using Flash Bombs is also somewhat annoying in this version, as the player must push the fire button on the second controller. This control scheme is very clumsy considering the Atari 8-bit had a nice keyboard that they could have used. This is because Parker Brothers was also planning on releasing this version on the keyboardless Atari 5200, which did have a second button on the controller. In fact the only thing the keyboard is actually used for in this version is for pausing the game, which can be useful if you want to swap out joysticks to use a flash bomb.
The Atari 8-bit version of Tutankham is fair, but it should have been much much better. For some reason they decided to make the explorer all one color, and didn't bother to give him any detail. The background color scheme is also rather questionable (i.e. terrible), which makes it very hard to see what is going on in the maze. There is no reason that much better ports were found on less powerful machines like the Vic-20 and Odyssey^2. The Atari 8-bit version also only allows for three enemies to be on the screen at once rather than up to eight in the arcade version. This is most likely due to the limitations of the machine, but then again many other weaker systems some how managed to get four or more enemies on the screen..
It is unknown why Tutankham was never released, but it was more than likely due to the collapsing game market and Parker Brothers decision to pull out of video game industry. The box for the Atari 8-bit version of Tutankham was shown in several ads, so it was probably very close to being released. Rumor has it that the two known roms for Tutankham were dumped from actual prototypes, but so far no prototype cartridges have surfaced. These rom images were converted into disk images so they could be pirated on various BBS boards in the 80's. This is just another example of preservation through piracy.