THQ Nordic is turning into a real necromancer of the gaming industry. They are the kings of breathing new life into the dead, abandoned mid-tier AA games and series. Darksiders, Kingdoms of Amalur, and Red Faction are recent examples of games that were largely left behind for them to bring them back in one way or another.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is yet another example, even if it is an odd one. The game originally released in 2003 for the PlayStation 2, Gamecube, Xbox, and PC. On January 29th, it re-releases for the Nintendo Switch. Not as a full remaster, just another port of the game that kids saw 14 years ago. If they even remember it, that is.
When Sphinx originally released, it got positive reviews. If you check Metacritic, all three original console ports of the game are scored just below 80. So, you must figure that means it should be a good time, right? Honestly, for the most part, it is.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is set in an ancient Egypt-like setting and follows Sphinx, a silent protagonist who is put on a journey to find the legendary blade of Osiris and combat the encroaching darkness. In another part of the world, the Prince Tutankhamen is getting ready to celebrate his birthday when his brother captures him and during a ritual, kills him, making him the titular Mummy.
For an early 2000s game, it is not a terrible story. There is no voice acting, but all the characters are very different from each other. Between gods, demigods, a mummy, sorcerers, and the cartoony looking humans, it is a very diverse cast. Many characters have essences of animals in them, which was cool to see.
Gameplay will regularly rotate between the two characters. When playing as Sphinx, the game plays a lot like a Zelda game. The focus is on combat and exploration. You gather equipment that allows you to handle the environments and enemies you face. For the most part, none of the items gained differentiate the game from anything else we have seen before. Instead of having the shield on always, it is equipped like a regular weapon, and blow darts can hit far off obstacles, but the cursor is so tiny it is hard to pinpoint where you are aiming.
When playing as Tut, the focus is on stealth. Tut’s mummified body has been transported to the main villain’s lair. You must adventure through the castle multiple times to find items that can prove useful to Sphinx and solve puzzles. The puzzles throughout the game can be quite annoying at times though. They are not really difficult but can sometimes be obtuse and can require a lot of back and forth.
Since Tut is dead, he can take being electrified, caught on fire, and flattened into a 2D sprite. I loved using these to solve puzzles in his sections of the game. It differentiates the two characters even more so it feels like playing as the two is worth it. Compare this Halo 2 when playing as Master Chief and the Arbiter. They play the same, so really the entire game could have been about Chief, and it would have been fine.
The most frustrating part of this game is the platforming. Controlling Sphinx and Tut does not feel great. It is very clunky and is a product of its time. The camera is very aggravating, hardly ever doing what I wanted it to do. When playing the game in handheld, the touch screen can turn the camera faster though so there’s that. It is a pretty pointless inclusion for the Switch’s screen.
Remaking the game from the ground up would have made this a much better experience, but I do not think a much-forgotten game from 2003 was going to garner much excitement regardless.
Save points are spread way too far apart from each other. You can only save at specific statues, mostly found at the beginning points of areas. This was annoying to me because I would find a spot where I wanted a break but would have to force myself through an extra 15-20 minutes of annoying platforming and puzzle solving to find a spot to save. Bringing this game back should have at least included the option to make a manual save in any area.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is an early 2000s game, so it is not the best-looking game on the Switch. For a game that came from that time though, it looks decent. I could believe that I am in Ancient Egypt while playing. Every enemy had differentiating traits about them, even though they are all the same color.
Sphinx doesn’t really look like anything. He is a demigod with a tiny tail and a constantly determined look on him. He is your standard good guy, silent protagonist.
I love the way mummified Tut looks though. While Sphinx has a much more serious vibe to him and his gameplay, Tut is much more cartoony and expressive. Even wrapped in bandages, he has much more character to him than Sphinx at any point in the game.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is an odd game to bring back from the dead. While I think it is an underrated gem from that time, it does not necessarily hold up in today’s gaming landscape. Clunky controls, annoying separated saves, and a camera that does not do the game justice will annoy any newcomers to the game.
On the flip side, the game has interesting characters, a setting that is underutilized in games, and good graphics considering what it came from. The game is priced at $29.99, however. That is way too high of a price to pay for this. I recommend waiting for a good sale on it, and then give the game a try.
For more reviews check out opencritic.com.
- THE GOOD
- Expressive Mummy
- A Forgotten Gem
- Ancient Egypt
- Good Graphics (For what it is coming from)
- THE BAD
- Clunky Controls
- Bad Camera
- Lots of Back and Forth
- Separated Saves
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is a diamond in the rough. It is very enjoyable in some aspects, but has not aged well in others. Remastering the game further to correct some issues with the game would have went a far way into making this a better experience.