Review – Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy (Switch)

There were several titles released in the early 2000’s that received high critical acclaim, but for whatever the reason didn’t sell as much as was hoped for and fell by the wayside after a short time. Beyond Good and Evil from Ubisoft was a personal favorite of mine that fell into this category, as well as Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy from THQ Nordic. I remember hearing about it back in 2003 when it initially released on the Xbox, PS2, and Gamecube, but it seemed to fall off everyone’s radar fairly quickly after it came out despite glowing critic reviews. THQ Nordic has decided to revive Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy from the dead (pun intended) and re-released it on the Nintendo Switch. Now a whole new generation of players can experience the adorable and quirky tale of an unlikely duo trying to save Egypt and themselves from a great evil.

The mummy is excited to go through this adventure with you!

Set in ancient Egypt, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy follows the titular Sphinx, a demigod that is part man and part beast, as he sets out on a task set for him by his simian master, Imhotep. It’s not long before his path crosses with Tutankhamun, a young prince who is turned into a mummy by a curse set upon him from his brother. There are many eccentric characters introduced throughout the game, but for the most part their roles in remain pretty shallow. The main focus is always on Sphinx and Tutankhamun.

You’ll trade back and forth playing as both characters with each new section of the game. Each character features distinct and unique gameplay mechanics that make the game seem much more diverse. For example, Sphinx is very agile and can run, double jump, and wield weapons. He’s more of the adventurer that solves problems by using his blade. Tutankhamun, on the other hand, plays very differently since he’s essentially dead and cannot move as well. This also means he doesn’t take damage either. So while he doesn’t necessarily have weapons at his disposal, he does have the ability to electrocute himself or light himself on fire to solve puzzles. That’s essentially what this game boils down to: dungeon crawling, hack and slash segments with Sphinx and puzzle solving 3D platforming sections with Tutankhamun. 

Here I am hauling around this lazy bones.

The controls in Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy are all over the place. Sphinx’s movements when wielding the Blade of Osiris are smooth and fluid, but his jumping mechanics can be awkward and unpredictable. He can feel pretty floaty at times which leads to a learning curve with his jumping distance. Later in the game, he’ll be able to utilize Capture Beetles that ensnare the essence of a monster he comes into contact with. The problem is that you have to use the same Joycon to control the beetle’s path as the one that moves the camera. This makes for a very poor and confusing design choice, to say the least.

Tutankhamun doesn’t have weapons at his disposal but he does end up gain artifacts that give him different abilities that aid him in his adventure. The Dark Stone of Invisibility for example, allows him to become invisible, but only if he remains stationary. This gives him the ability to sneak past certain guards, but the lack of movement with it combined with the swift movements of the searching parties make for some frustrating timing sections. Then there’s the greatest foe of them all: the camera.

I’m having shocking amounts of fun with this game.

To put it simply, the camera in Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is downright infuriating. I’m not sure if I got a copy that had a camera glitch, but the movements of it went way beyond the normal early 2000’s camera issues. Yes there are still plenty of times where the camera gets stuck on a wall and can’t properly circle behind you as you would expect from a game that came out on the earlier generations of consoles. No, what I’m referring to is the fact the camera will automatically start moving directly over your head and point at the ground after you leave it untouched or run in a straight line for about five to ten seconds. I know this might not sound like a long time, but when you’re trying to run across a huge map or are trying to look at the landscape to figure out where to go next, it flies by quickly. Then you have to wrestle to get the camera to point back to where you want it to look. Basically the whole game you’ll be fighting the camera, which greatly detracts from the gameplay.

Hopefully she thinks you have a great personality.

This current release of The Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy features the same graphics as the original, but with a higher resolution which does wonders to smooth out some of the previously rougher sections. I have to give credit where credit is due; the graphics in this game are still pretty decent especially considering it’s a fifteen year old game. The cartoonish characters and animations do a lot to preserve the overall look of this game without dating it too much. There are some nice textures at work in the surrounding environments as well as plenty of areas with rich color saturation, which is especially impressive for a game set in Egypt with vast sprawling deserts.

As expected from an adventure game from the early 2000’s, there’s no voice acting to speak of. It instead utilizes animal noises due to the anthropomorphic characters and speech text displayed at the bottom the of the screen. I will say that while most of the sounds are very well done, there are quite a few that are played too often and will grate on you after a while. The musical score is appropriate for the setting and has a very distinctive Egyptian sound to it. 

It wasn’t me I swear.

I have to say that despite some of the gameplay mechanics and abysmal camera, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is still a wildly entertaining and charming game. Even though I fought tooth and nail to get the camera under control the entire time, I still had a lot of fun playing it. My hope now is that THQ Nordic sees a renewed interest in this game and makes a sequel with controls and a camera that fit today’s standards. If so, I’m sure it will be an instant classic. For now though, if you have a Nintendo Switch (and some patience), I highly recommend you give Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy a chance to use it’s delightful magic on you.

 

 

Graphics: 8.0

Thanks in part to the cartoon art style of the game, the graphics still hold up really well, especially for a fifteen year old game.

Gameplay: 6.0

While some of the gameplay mechanics are solid, plenty of others have their flaws. Constantly fighting the camera is torturous.

Sound: 8.0

There is no voice acting, but the sound effects are well executed and the musical score is good and distinctively Egyptian sounding.

Fun Factor: 7.5

There are so many different things to do in this game, that you’ll be able to immerse yourself in it for a while. The camera and some of the controls are aggravating though.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is available now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PS2, and PC.

A copy of Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy was provided by the publisher.

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