What Was Old is New Again:
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is a game that represents a largely bygone era in gaming. Today we’re all about action, big set pieces, and heavy exposition dumps. Sphinx is focused on platforming and puzzle solving. Sphinx may not have been the greatest or most fondly remembered game of its generation, but it is a good time so long as you can get past a few hiccups.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy came out nearly 16 years ago in 2003. Sixteen years is a long time in the gaming world. Multiple console generations have come and gone, thousands of games have been published. Graphics technology has evolved as well, with every new generation of games, graphical fidelity improves. Back in 2003, what was considered gorgeous is rather droll in comparison to modern day titles. Sphinx however doesn’t have that issue. Sphinx can’t stand up to most of its modern day contemporaries in the graphics department. However a strong art and architectural design help carry some admittedly dated graphics. Being on the Nintendo Switch helps due to an HD resolution, and stable frame rate but a HD bump can’t make some of the jagged edges and dated textures meet modern standards. Sphinx can still be a beautiful game at times, and being set in Egypt with such a distinct art style and color palette definitely works in the game’s favor.
The graphics of Sphinx have aged and unfortunately so have the controls. Playing on the standard Switch joycons is possible but difficult due to the small buttons. Sphinx is a game where you do a lot of platforming, jumping, shimmying and movement in general. The joycons are functional but not ideal for this type of setting, a controller would work best. However the controls themselves can be an issue as well. Over the last sixteen years, controls in gaming have evolved to be smoother. Controls have become more functional and more reactive. Often times in Sphinx when it comes to either combat or platforming, you won’t know you’ve made a mistake until it’s too late. You’ll dive off the wrong edge, hit the wrong enemy, or perform some wonky kind of animation you weren’t intending to. The camera is also something to keep in mind. The camera isn’t always consistent in the angles that you’re able to see. This lack of consistency will lead to times where you die or miss an enemy because of what the camera didn’t show you. The controls do work, but they’re a bit floaty and imprecise, akin to Tomb Raider from the 90s.
Sphinx can feel lifeless due to the fact that there is no voice acting. I understand that it’s a port of a sixteen year old game, but adding some voice actors in would have really made the story all the more captivating. The story is interesting; an early twist that I won’t reveal links the two characters, Sphinx, and Tutankhamun together. They stay linked for the duration of the experience. If you’re a fan of Egyptian history and mythology you’ll get a treat out of the references, but even if you aren’t, it’s a well written experience. I’d just recommend getting used to long exposition dumps and reading constantly. The levels themselves, while striking in terms of art style, can be barren. I’m sure this lack of content was due to the lack of processing power available at the time of original release. One last thing to keep in mind is the fact that even though the game has been ported to the Switch, touch and motion controls are not used at all. It’s a standard video game port.
Sphinx has its ups and downs, overall, I think it’s a good experience. Some parts of the game haven’t aged well, the movement and controls can be floaty and imprecise. The lack of voice acting and sparsity of the levels can make the game feel hollow at times. However if you can get past the shortcomings and limitations I think you can find a pretty decent weekend adventure that might just get you interested in all things Egyptian. I give Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy a 3 out of 5.