Sphinx & the Cursed Mummy - Better than I expected!

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by Joseph Young, Nov 18, 2003.

  1. Joseph Young

    Joseph Young Screenwriter

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    I got the Cube version of THQ's Sphinx & the Cursed Mummy (formerly titled Sphinx & the Shadow of Set), a puzzle/platformer adventure set in an imaginary world based on an amalgam of Egyptian mythology. I wasn't expecting a whole lot but I am really impressed so far.

    You play as Sphinx (human/lion hybrid) and a recently mummified Tutankhamen, in separate adventures that coalesce into a single story. Sphinx's emphasis is on fighting, platforming, and exploration, whereas the Mummy has to breach traps by putting himself through all sorts of physical punishment (electrocution, fire, flattening).

    The game starts out very slowly, as Sphinx tries solves a number of puzzles in a relatively small landscape, with few moves and no weapons. As you progress through the game, however, the immensity and scale of the worlds becomes clear. This is a massive game, and an adventure not too dissimilar from Zelda. The puzzles are ingenious, clever, and built into the landscape.

    Here are just some.
    * Lure exploding creatures from a cave to blow apart rope holding back a boulder that then rolls into a bed of lava, providing you safe passage across).
    * Sneak past eyeball-on-chain guards to get through doors.
    * Find a way into the mouth of a creature (whom you learn about later in one of the town's museums), then sit inside its mouth adjusting your trajectory.

    The graphics and framerate are really butter-smooth (widescreen mode especially). The Cube version supports progressive scan. When I first saw the reflective floors in Tut's Palace, I was blown away. In fact, there is an entire chapter devoted to controlling the pre-mummy Prince Tutankhamen, right up to his mummification.

    There is no voice acting. You can tell this game's long development cycle went into designing really polished levels, rather than employing top voice talent... guess what? It shows. A tradeoff I'm more than willing to deal with.

    The music is, no joke, really gorgeous. From tender guitar ballads, to strings and melodies that evoke drama and tension, the music is pitch-perfect.

    The fighting engine is not particular sophisticated.. there is no lock-on, but you do get a shield and other offensive/defensive maneuvers as you play through the first few levels. Some gamers who want a stronger fighting engine might be disappointed by the game, but the emphasis is really on exploring, solving puzzles, using your head, and vanquishing the ocassional foe.

    This is a really impressive effort and (hopefully) a sign of things to come for these developers. A solid game that lacks some of the preferred elements, like 'badass' fighting and dramatic voice acting -- but sure to be a sleeper hit for gamers who like to delve a little under the radar.

    Recommended.

    ~j
     
  2. DaveB

    DaveB Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks Joseph, I had no interest in this title but now I'll definitely have to give it a try, might even pick this one up.

    FWIW, another "under-the-radar" title you may want to check out it EA's Freedom Fighters. It's surprisingly good.

    David
     
  3. Joseph Young

    Joseph Young Screenwriter

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    I heard the same thing about Freedom Fighters, interesting. I like 'sleeper' titles a lot, because I can delve into them unhampered by any hype and just enjoy them on their own merits. It's harder to do that with the really high profile titles, as good as they may be.

    Sphinx commits a lot of 'playbook' errors for how to make a title that will get noticed. The gameplay is subtlely absorbing but not 'in your face.' The graphics are gorgeous but lack any gimmick or flourish that might set them apart from other titles. There's no 'skater kid with attitude' sounding voice actor for Sphinx, but instead old-school text boxes, a la Banjoo Kazooie. No rock soundtrack, no anachronistic slogans, just good, solid gameplay and an immensely absorbing and fully realized world. Sounds good to me.
     
  4. Dave F

    Dave F Cinematographer

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    I checked it out on the basis of some word-of-mouth, but I was pretty disappointed. Nothing bad, but I didn't find anything too exciting, either. I ended up quitting out of boredom.

    Nice vibrant graphics, though.

    -Dave
     
  5. Steve Y

    Steve Y Supporting Actor

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    This definitely sounds like it may enter the "sleeper" realm. (though for some people that's a literal definition!) I've heard some good things about it from people who are into less flashy (read: action-oriented) platform games. Quite a few people were also indifferent / bored with Rocket: Robot on Wheels (for N64), but I ended up having quite a lot of fun with it. Sounds like more of a niche sub-genre... the "good-natured atmospheric low-key puzzle/platformer"...

    ~s
     
  6. Joseph Young

    Joseph Young Screenwriter

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  7. Dave F

    Dave F Cinematographer

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  8. RobBenton

    RobBenton Stunt Coordinator

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    I heard the xbox version supports 720p
     
  9. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    This was compared to Zelda during production. Any truth to that? I'll pick it up eventually, as I've been interested in it for a while now.
     
  10. Dave F

    Dave F Cinematographer

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    No 720p, just 480p (although it is widescreen).
     
  11. John Doran

    John Doran Screenwriter

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    that's interesting, 'cos this is what it says in the review for the game over at IGN:

    "Runs in 16x9 widescreen and 480p on GameCube; runs in 16x9 widescreen and 720p on Xbox"

    i'm definitely interested in this game - thanks for the great review, joseph - i hadn't even really heard of the game until i saw this thread...

    - jd
     
  12. Joseph Young

    Joseph Young Screenwriter

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    The 'Mummy' portions of the game are similar to Sphinx's insofar as play control, but while Sphinx is a more active participant in his surroundings (read: sword/shield, swimming, special moves) the mummy is really just a tool you use to unlock the surrounding region. Electricity and fire last for limited periods of time and are used to activate devices or burn wooden gates. Sounds simplistic on paper, but the level design pulls it out of mediocrity.

     
  13. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    Sounds great, Joseph. I'll definitely pick up this game.
     
  14. John Madia

    John Madia Second Unit

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    For those interested, this game is now $20 at ebgames.com
    I bought it and the Rainbow Six 3 companion disc which contains the 2 new Splinter Cell levels that I wanted.
     
  15. Eric F

    Eric F Screenwriter

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    Had to dig this one up.[​IMG]

    I purchased this game blind at TRU for $6.50. Well worth that- I love this type of game.
     
  16. Chris Bardon

    Chris Bardon Cinematographer

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    This one was good, with a few standout features. Reminded me a lot of Star Fox adventures actually-a great way to fill the time between zeldas. The Mummy sections were fantastic though, but the combat in the sphinx sections was pretty crappy. For the price though, it's definitely worth a look.
     

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