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August 3, 2004
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy - Review
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Graphically, it's impressive.
Like the cover of books, the names behind videogames today are often required to spell out what the game is about, and whether or not itís worth getting. Something like Britneyís Dance Beat immediately tells me to run for the hills (it wasn't that bad, just too short - Dave), while a game such as Colin McRae Rally 04 says that itís a rally game which has come from a fairly decent bloodline. Sometimes though, companies seem to get this idea completely wrong, and give their games names, which are somewhat... misleading. When I first heard the name Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, it sounded more like the title of an upcoming generic Disney straight-to-DVD flick rather than a motivated stab at the crowded adventure genre. Indeed the name alone put me off reviewing this game originally, and it was only when I turned my PS2 on and put the game in that I was quite pleasantly surprised.

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What the hell is that???
If I spelt out the story behind Sphinx, itíd take several paragraphs, and would be more than confusing; which isnít a bad thing mind you. There is character swapping throughout the game, and intertwining storylines between them makes you constantly think about what is coming up around the next corner. How will it relate to not only the current characters, but also other characters? ĎConfusioní probably isnít the best word to use to explain the storyline though, itís more one of those games where youíre thrown in the deep end, and the story progresses as you do throughout the game.

The story begins with you playing as the apprentice Sphinx, being addressed by the old sorcerer Imhotep. He explains that you and Horus (a fellow apprentice, who seems to be too smartypants for his own good) must go and retrieve the Blade of Osiris, a mystical sword from the land of Uruk. A tutorial-like sequence follows, where you are prompted through the very early parts of the game, however a good deal of thinking is still involved (not quite one for the kiddies; theyíll get frustrated and give up early on with Sphinx). The learning curve is steep, but not unreasonably soÖ itíll make you scratch your head, but like most tough problems youíll find that the answer was staring you in the face all along.

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Picking up the skeleton!
If you hadnít gathered by now, Sphinx is a 3rd person adventure game, with a touch of action and a splash of RPG; which all combine to create a very enjoyable and extensive experience. You can also customize which obtained abilities to use depending on which ones suit your style better. Many people have compared this game to Zelda, not only because of the wide-open environments, but also because of the progressive level-up style of the game. Early on you might encounter a high ledge, which is out of reach. Later in the game youíll acquire a double-jump skill, which will enable you to reach that ledge, so youíll have to return again and find out whatís over the other side.

Sphinx is one of those games that is virtually faultless, yet still feels as though thereís something missing. Split into its individual components, everything has been done extremely well; just take the presentation, storyline, visuals, music and sound effects for starters. However, certain things could have been added in for example: voiceovers, more variety in the gameplay/puzzles and some un-lockable extras. I suppose that because of this, making a sequel (Sphinx 2 anyone?) should be a relative no-brainer for Eurocom, they donít have to make any major changes to the existing code, just tweak it a little and add in some extras. Some extra marketing effort on THQís behalf wouldnít go astray either to hopefully rope in gamers that think that Sphinx sounds like a kiddie game.

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The games hero.
Eurocom have certainly got some talented staff on team who produced Sphinx, as the screenshots clearly show. Environments range from large open outdoor spaces to claustrophobic detailed tombs and caverns. Characters too have in depth models, with a unique style to them; not only in their static appearance but also given the way the walk and move. They have cheated a little with the draw-in range, which is possibly a fraction too short, and is only seen with smaller enemies rather than structures and objects (which is where draw-in distances become an issue). Fortunately the gameplay in Sphinx is styled such that it doesnít have any moments where this becomes a problem. All graphical gripes aside though, the game looks fabulous in stills and in motion, and certainly gets my vote for one of the prettier games this year.

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More nice graphical effects.
From the opening cutscene where you are first introduced to Sphinx, the audio is top grade and sets the scene for the rest of the game. While neither Dolby nor surround is supported, the in-game acoustics are above average, and are backed by a terrific score (which changes throughout the game depending on the locale and general mood). The main drawback with the sound however is the lack of voiceovers. Why I ask?! Why!? Speaking plays a prominent function throughout the game, when talking to random characters as well as during the cutscenes. People want to admire the graphics dammit! That, and not end up spending each cutscene ignoring the eye-candy for the scrawling text at the base of the screen. Well, itís a forgivable flaw I suppose, but it should be up the top of their Ďto doí list when it comes time to work on a sequel for Sphinx.

I have to say I was very surprised once I got several hours into Sphinx, and fortunately it was the good type of surprised rather than the bad one. Sphinx is an optimistic adventure romp, which is pleasing to look at, listen to, and play, which is quite rare from a game that is relatively quiet on the hype-front. It is challenging enough that you wonít exactly breeze through it, yet at the same time you wonít throw it on the Ďtoo hardí pile that gathers dust in the corner. Itíll take some time before youíve finished Sphinx, and even longer to finish all the mini-games, which is good because it has charm that will keep you returning for more. Hire it. Buy it. Play it. Sphinx will keep you glued to the PS2 for days to come.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSGorgeous visuals, which look even tastier in motion.
SOUNDA deep score is let down by no voiceovers nor Dolby.
GAMEPLAYA strong adventure game with action and RPG-like elements.
VALUEYou wonít finish it overnight, but it could be a little longer.
OVERALLSphinx and the Cursed Mummy is a fine example of a game that has sneaked under the hype radar, only to impress after release. Itís a shame that with such a childish-sounding name many gamers will undoubtedly ignore it, which is unfortunate because Sphinx isnít an adventure game to be ignored. Fans of adventure games wonít want to miss this one.

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