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Sphinx & The Cursed Mummy Package Art
†GENRE
††Adventure
†DEVELOPER
††Eurocom
†PUBLISHER
††THQ
†NUMBER OF PLAYERS
††1
†CONNECTIVITY
††no
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Sphinx & The Cursed Mummy

It seems that every year, a small line of games comes out and attempts to challenge the seemingly unchallengeable standards set by (arguably) the greatest game of all, The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. In 2003, Nintendo (again, arguably) raised the bar once more, attempting to up the ante with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.

During this game's development, it underwent several name changes, but the makers in the end decided on Sphinx and The Cursed Mummy. As the title suggests, youíll be traversing through Ancient Egypt as seen through its myths and legends (and developers). While arguably not as deep or as polished as Zelda, are there enough differences, additions and originalities to keep players happy or are they stuck with another nonsensical clone? Note: Thereís one thing that youíll definitely not have to worry about; this game is NOT a history lesson.

visuals

SATCM is no slouch when it comes to the visuals. Even though the game was built from scratch, it shows that a lot of effort was put in to make the game look just right. The environments, including buildings, structures and other landmarks look like theyíre straight off the set from a big Hollywood production. Theyíre imperious in both stature and awe. However, theyíve been given a distinct artistic work over to make sure that they all fit together. Speaking of Art, it plays a huge role in the games presentation. Not only has the environment been specifically tailored to resemble different scenes of Ancient Egypt, everything from towns to temples but a lot of the games characters are tailored around the motifs of Egyptian gods. That is, essentially they are humanoid but most will have the head of an animal, really adding to the Egyptian feel. Despite the great focus on art, other facets of the graphics donít suffer. Things like detail, textures and colours are all done at a very high standard. Youíre guaranteed to have a few of those jaw-dropping moments, as well as some awesome effects and epic cinematics.

However, there are a few inconsistencies present. For one, I found that the text and the in-game menu in the game was tiny and barely readable. My eyesight isnít that good but honestly, I can read the text off most games. Someone with a small TV would have problems, as it would border-line on being impossible to read. And no, there is no option concerning the change of text-size. Because the gameís graphics engine has obviously been pushed quite far, there is an unfortunate consequence of this. There are numerous occasions where the frame rate drops and sometimes pauses. While its not too bad, as you play through, youíll memorize the locations of these discrepancies. The game was pushed for the holiday season, so it looks as if the developers didnít have the time to put it through the ironing process one last time. Still, these inconsistencies arenít that big a deal and donít take away from the fact that the game looks quite awesome.

audio

This department of the game was really disappointing. Even though the music is well done, none of the other in-game sound categories stands close to todayís standards. The music on whole is a mix of far-eastern instrumentals with orchestral western standard. In other words, an orchestra made up of far-eastern instruments. This is done pretty well, with a decent variety of tunes to suit both their corresponding environments and moods. However, everything else is extremely under-whelming. Most of the games sound effects are real primitive and lacking in variation. These are ranging form the sounds of moving objects to that of enemy creatures. An example of this, I came across a bull-like monster wielding a huge axe. Instead of a ferocious roar, it bleat like a goat. Let me tell, it really does affect the situation, kills any sort of intimidation that the monster may cause and puts you off guard. Another disappointing area is the total lack of voices. With the amount of zany and varied characters that you encounter, it seems that voices would have made a huge contribution to the games overall atmosphere. This is especially apparent during cinematic scenes, where youíre forced to read weeny text while the visuals are something to behold.

Unfortunately, Sphinx canít get away with it, as much as a game like Zelda. Wind Waker is particular good example of why. The developers were good enough to capture the characterís emotions, which can compensate for voices. Unfortunately in Sphinx, there are too many characters, mainly NPCís that are devoid of personality. This something that adventure games these days cannot really afford to be stingy on. Overall, the sound is really not adequate when the standards of today are taken into consideration.

gameplay

As has been mentioned, Sphinx derives its foundations from the famed Zelda titles. However, it would shallow to dismiss this as mere clone, as developers have gone a long way set this title apart. And to a great extent, they succeed. Firstly, the games split into two different parts. The first is the open-world adventure where you take the control of Sphinx - a young, headstrong demigod. Here youíll fulfil the standard quest-based adventure with a bit of action along the way. The second is stealth. However, in interesting twist, you play as a mummy.

For the first part, when I mean standard I donít mean in anyway, shape or form that itís boring or generic. Well, the game does start out a bit slow and youíll feel a bit under-whelmed but not to worry, it builds from there. As with most quest-style adventures, Sphinx (the character) starts off with nothing. However, most of the early stages of the game are structured to in order for you to find your basic necessities. The game in a whole becomes more interesting when youíve collected your sword. You get a shield as well but it borderlines on useless. This is because it can only be used in specific situations. Anyway, once you have your sword, the quest becomes more interesting. Not just because you can fight enemies but a number of other traits that allow the sword to be more useful. An example of this is whacking street lamps to knock out money from them. Obviously, the more items you acquire, the more places are accessible to you. These items range from keys and trinkets to a Blowpipe and Zip-line. The game may seem like thereís a lot of fetching to be done, though it really isnít as simple as this. The gameplay is still able to retain depth and ingenuity, though itís arguable that a lot comes from the well-done puzzles. They are all quite smart and arenít as tedious as in other games.

Speaking of puzzles, they make up a large portion of the second part of the game. Here you play as the mummy, where you start in the dungeon of a huge castle. Not only do you solve huge puzzles but the mummy has an interesting ailment. Since heís dead, he canít be hurt. You use this a lot to youíre advantage. For example, if there is a torch that needs to be lit, as the mummy you can jump into a furnace. While youíre on fire, than you can run over to the torch, to light it up. Youíll come across many other traps, where youíll have to use similar tactics to get around them. As for the huge puzzles, they seem like a big dot-to-dot picture. Where one event triggers another and another and so forth from there, all the way up until you get to your goal, generally an item of some sort. Overall, the Mummy portions of the game though require a lot of thinking; they are an excellent change of pace. I donít want to give away too much of the story, because it is quite nicely done and has a few good twists along the way. However, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy need to work together in order to achieve their goal. It is not as if their play scenarios are totally different games. However, you will switch between them when the correct objectives are met.

While its no secret by now that this game is Zelda inspired, there are a few key features that set apart the two games. Apart from the two characters and their different styles of play, the games mechanics are a bit different then the usual Zelda set up. For starters, the game is far more platform orientated than any Zelda title, so youíll be doing a lot of jumping. So the game has incorporated a jump button (A) meaning that all the context sensitive functions have been moved onto the next most convenient button, in this case (Y). At times it can be difficult to distinct the game a platformer title, however, it opens up some diverse scenarios and blends well with the adventure in whole. Itís done well enough so that it shouldnít really bother anyone. Another part of the game that sets it apart is the lack of a targeting function. All the camera work is done manually with the C-stick. In normal wandering situations, this is no big drama but it takes a while to get used to during combat. To add to this, a limited amount of sword techniques and some this may feel as if the games combat system is bit under-developed. Frankly, it probably is a bit simplistic. However, donít be fooled. The enemies in this game are quite sophisticated and can carve a lot of damage when youíre not careful. It up to you to figure out their weaknesses (which can be easily exploited when known) and use it to your absolute advantage. The bad thing about this is that once youíve figured out the weaknesses, fights with both enemies and bosses can become a bit repetitive.

On a final note, no adventure game complete without an assortment of mini-games. Sphinx has no problems fulfilling this obligation. With a wide assortment of skill-testing and brain-busting game, Sphinx gives you plenty to do outside the main adventure. While the games are quite intelligent and fun, everything from moving mazes to collecting creatures, the unfortunate part is that there is no real reward for completing them. They have no bearing on the ending and the most of the gained items are quite superficial. Still, most of them are a lot of fun. Overall it can be said that the gameplay is a solid accomplishment. The games design has obviously had a lot of work put into it and it pays off quite handsomely. Despite this though, the rush to get it out of the holiday season kind-of left begging the one last coat of polish. However, doesnít detract too much from the whole experience. Not only do you have two separate (yet linked) components, an assortment of things to do, excellent variation but a 20-hour lifespan and a reasonable challenge.

multiplayer

N/A

overall

While the foundations of this game are based on the Zelda formula, there are enough differences, additions and originalities to set this game apart. There is almost enough here to put it into a league of its own. Youíve got an awesome fantasy setting (which is really well realised), two characters with original and familiar styles of play, platforming, awesome visuals, 20-hours of gameplay, and something that The Wind Waker didnít have; A decent challenge. However, on the flipside, youíve got quite a slow start, an audio presentation that leaves a lot to be desired, slightly obtuse controls and itís missing that one last coat of shine and ironing out that would have made this game ultra-polished. And frankly, some players will not like it because it is what it is (or isnít). Really, in the end, Egypt really never looked this good and probably wasnít this much fun. Anyone who owns a Cube and hasnít picked this up, really has little reason not to. Despite the flaws and lack of polish, it is truly a great game. Itís earned the right to sit on the shelf next to your copy of The Wind Waker.

final score 8.7/10





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Staff Avatar Jeremy Jastrzab
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"I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer."


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