Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy
Review by Toger
I didn't think it possible to have fun with a game set in Egypt.
See, I'm one of those gamers who groans in anguish to hear of
yet another game taking place in the ancient land of pyramids,
intrigue and more sand than I care to see in my lifetime. I've
been there so many times in games that, with the possible exception
of Atlantis (cue Donovan), you'd think I'd steer clear of Egyptian-themed
games. But then I saw some screenshots from a new game set in
Egypt and all was lost ...
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is the newest creation from
Eurocom Entertainment Software. Best known for their 007 franchise,
Sphinx is an action/adventure platformer set in ancient
Egypt when gods were men and the mortal populace knew better than
to forget to make offerings at the temple.
Sphinx, a demigod in his own right, is your basic half-lion,
half-human adventureryoung, brash and doesn't know the meaning
of danger. With his friend and fellow demigod, Horus, in tow,
Sphinx is dispatched to discover what the ominous signs and portents
foreseen by Imhotep mean to their world. Eventually, Horus tires
of Sphinx's slowness and sprints on ahead, leaving Sphinx and
the player to discover their own way through the world.
Prince Tutankhamennot yet the boy kingis naive, trusting
and so incredibly gangly-limbed he's the Egyptian equivalent of
Ichabod Crane. Looking into his eyes, you can tell that he's not
the sharpest knife in the drawer. Led into a trap, changed into
a shambling mummy by the god of darkness, Set, and left to rot
in a dungeon, he becomes Sphinx's willing partner in trying to
set the world to rights.
Gameplay in Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy consists mainly
of jumping, climbing, swordplay, swimming, puzzling out how to
get from here to there, chatting up and running errands for the
locals, and collecting scarabs. There are also several minigames
where you'll not only win scarabs or medals, but also help prepare
Sphinx for what lies ahead (i.e., quickly using the blowgun to
activate toggles that control hidden metal steps in pools of lava).
Similar to The
Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, you'll also be
able to assign various items, such as the Shield of Osiris or
the blowpipe, to either the shoulder or triangle buttons.
Playing as the Mummy is quite different than playing as Sphinx.
Not only does our poor, hapless Mummy have no weapons, he's also
quite dead. And contrary to popular thought, death has its advantages.
In order to accomplish some tasks, it will be necessary to squash,
slash, electrocute or set your Mummy ablaze. When he's a walking
torch, he'll slap at himself in an attempt to put out the fire
and hop from one foot to the other. If he's carrying an electrical
charge, not only does he glow (at times, you can actually see
his skeleton), he also jerks from side to side due to the charge.
The Mummy's puzzle sequences are very creative and hilarious in
the extreme. Be prepared to spend a lot of time laughing.
As with the majority of console games, saving is done at save
points peppered throughout each level. Warning: During Mummy levels,
you can only save at the beginning or end of the level. However,
since he's got limitless lives, do you really need more save points?
Visually, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is simply breathtaking.
In the dry desert of Heliopolis, you can feel the blistering heat
of the day as the sun rides high in a cloudless, cerulean sky
and sand whirls about you in small dervishes. Huge cliffs and
rocks dominate the landscape, and you just know that the caves
in the hillsides are cool and dank. Flocks of birds fly overhead,
gnats and dragonflies buzz about.
Inside buildings or temples, sand sifts or water flows through
cracks in the ceilings, wooden and rope walkways creak when they
take your weight and water laps at the shoreline. At night, there's
an enormous full moon dominating the black sky along with millions
Water effects are gorgeous. Not only does water ebb and flow
or drop from huge heights, but if you're close to it you'll see
water droplets. The physics of water actually affect this game
world. When the Mummy is electrified or on fire, a mere droplet
of water will extinguish the effect with a sizzle and wisps of
smoke. If either Sphinx or the Mummy walks through the water,
his forward momentum will slow due to the water pressure.
Colors in the game are bright and vibrant. Each character has
its own look and personality with very expressive facial features
and gestures. All manner of critters populate this worldgorillas
as palace guards, lizard shopkeepers, jackals, birds and humans.
And thats just the townspeople. Enemies include armor-wearing
cats with knives, electrified bulls, cutlass-wielding skeletons
and enormous rams with equally enormous double-bladed axes. Theres
even a walking, talking basket wearing red high-tops!
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy's camera controls are ...
Well, the clerk at the game store warned me that he felt the camera
controls were a little flaky in that you constantly had to realign
the camera in order to see. Needless to say, there was some trepidation
when I loaded up the game and found ... they're not that bad!
The game is played in traditional third-person perspective with
the camera usually positioned just behind Sphinx or the Mummy;
however, you will need to move it about in some scenes in order
to keep enemies in view. The camera is able to move up, down or
a full 360 degrees around. In fact, I grew to like the camera
because I could rotate it to different positions, which helped
with depth perception for some jumps. It did take some getting
used to with multiple enemies, but I let Sphinx "tell"
me where they were when he looked over his shoulder.
When using the blowpipe, camera perspective changes to first
person for ease of aiming, and you'll not only see your target
but also Sphinx's fingers changing position on the blowpipe as
you line up the shot.
And now we've come to the audio portion of our program: There
is no voice work in Sphinx. Before you choke to death,
allow me to explain further. All dialogue is text accompanied
by various grunts, groans and laughs, sighs, screams and yelps.
I think the Mummy is the most vocal, as he says "huh?"
if you leave him alone long enough. Otherwise, not a word is spoken,
which is something of a shame as the characters are so incredibly
To be honest, at first I was annoyed by the lack of voices in
SphinxI originally thought I had a defective game.
Then as I got wrapped up in the beauty and fun of the game, most
especially the Mummy levels, I realized that I didn't miss the
voice work. After all, no voice work is much better than bad voice
Music in Sphinx is definitely Arabian with the Western
addition of full symphonic sound. While in combat, the music will
change to reflect the tension of the battle.
Ambient sound is very well done. Not only will you get the normal
sounds of wooden doors closing, metal against metal and footsteps
changing as the ground surface changesincluding those slurping,
sucking footsteps when coming out of the watersound is also
appropriately muffled while swimming or diving.
All in all, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is a truly fun
little romp. While not as long as some gamesI clocked 20+
hours, and that's before the final boss battleit's worth
the price of admission just to see the Mummy dancing with electricity
or flattened like a piece of paper! If you're new to platform
games, then this just might be the one to get you hooked. Combat
isn't extremely difficult, jumps aren't too horrifically tricky,
there's lots of questing, puzzling and downright hilarious fun
to be had. The lack of voice work and the tricky camera, which
could be an issue for some players, won't deter me from giving
this game the FFC Gold Star!
Release Date: November 2003
Four Fat Chicks Links
Where to Find It
39.99; Xbox 39.99;
Prices/links current as of 12/13/03
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by any party(ies).