Remember back when 3D action platformers were all the rage and titles like Ratchet and Clank were the order of the day? Well back then the old THQ released a little-known title called Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy.
At the time the game didn’t sell too well and it’s one of those titles that you read about fondly online but will struggle to find many people in your circle of friends that have actually played it (well at least that’s the case for me anyway). So to me that makes it the perfect title to introduce to a new audience and perhaps produce a sequel to a game that clearly merited it as I will go on to discuss.
So the game starts out and you play as Sphinx in ancient Egypt and you are tasked with retrieving the Blade of Osiris. This plays out as your introduction to the mechanics and you will quickly get a feel for how the game plays, anyone who was into games like this back in the day will instantly feel at home with how it plays. As someone who never played the game first time around it really reminded me of being Jax from the Jax and Daxter games. Anyway, after hopping around getting used to the more platform orientated mechanics of the game you get the blade and it’s into combat. The combat is simple but satisfying and like most games of this type, it’s layered with upgrades and new abilities that you will unlock as you play.
It’s at round about this point the game reveals its Trump card. You don’t just play as Sphinx, you also play as an Egyptian prince who I’m totally gonna cop out on using his name because I don’t want to keep checking the spelling so will from here on out be known as the mummy. When playing as the mummy the mechanics change, it becomes less of an action platformer and more of a puzzle platformer with some really interesting gameplay mechanics.
In a lot of ways, it feels like 2 different games because of how differently you play as each character, kinda like being Clank in Ratchet and Clank. Sphinx gameplay sections are exactly what you would expect from a game like this, mainly hack and slash gameplay with plenty of platform climbing and item collecting and that makes up the larger slice of the game. The other 30/40% are you playing as the mummy and while it is more puzzle oriented the mechanics behind solving the puzzles is just so fun. You see the game likes to play on the whole “you are undead and can’t be killed” aspect of being a cursed mummy so it allows you to use that to full effect as you try to guide your way through trap-filled dungeons. Need to burn something? Then set yourself on fire and run into it.
Is the space too small for you to fit into? No problem run into that trap and let it squish you and you will become 2D and you can walk right through. It’s like torture porn at times as you subject the mummy to all sorts of hell as you move forward. It’s funny though lol.
Now when I loaded the game I have to admit I was surprised at how good it looks. The characters are all well animated and the game has a really great visual style and colour palette that makes the world feel warm and alive that gives it a Disney-esque charm. The character designs take ideas from Egyptian mythology to make it a world filled with unique people to interact with on your quest. I was so impressed with the visuals I decided to take a look at the Gamecube version to see how much it had improved and I was surprised to see that all they really had to do was to up the resolution, because this game looked great even back then.
Now to this point, I have been very positive about the title, but I do have a few little niggles with it.
First off, when playing as Sphinx the jumping can take a little getting used to. I found myself missing jumps quite a bit at the start until I got used to the very slight floaty feel to the mechanics, it’s nothing major but you likely will notice it then adapts.
The game also uses manual save points which is annoying as we have become so used to autosave, but these manual saves are also checkpoints if you die, so if you die you often have to replay the same sections over again and this can be really annoying if you then have to watch some unskippable cutscene again. Apart from that, the only other thing is it lacks any real replay value and it is more of a one and done experience.
Overall despite a few little niggles, the game has aged very well and you don’t really see games like this being made all that much if at all these days. So if you are someone that misses them or you would just like to play the game again (and perhaps prompt a sequel) then I can say this remaster is certainly worth the asking price and you won’t be disappointed.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*