Monday, April 29, 2019

Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy (NSW) Review

April's end is approaching, but there's lots of reviews to come to SuperPhillip Central before then. Our next review is for the Nintendo Switch remaster of Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy. What's next--a revival of Metal Arms: Glitch in the System?! Actually, that'd be pretty cool, too. Regardless, here's the SPC review of Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy.

Not all that it's wrapped up to be

With the recent surprising announcement of XIII being remastered for all current platforms, I couldn't help but think of other games from the past decade that have been revived much to my amazement. Now don't get me wrong--games like the stylish third-person shooter XIII and games like de Blob on Wii of all titles, are good surprises, but on the list of games that I just couldn't wait to see remastered, they sort of weren't at the top of my list.

Here comes Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, a game that like XIII, released during the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox generation--though this time around it was published by THQ. This 16 year-old action-adventure game set in an Ancient Egyptian world and clearly inspired by The Legend of Zelda is a blast from the past, but while the visuals have been improved, unfortunately nothing else really has. It makes for a game that is a product of 2003, cracks in its foundation and all.

Thankfully, Sphinx has no fear of heights.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is split up between two characters, and the title of the game sort of gives away who these two characters are. There's our primary protagonist, Sphinx, who you'll spend the majority of the game playing as, and the titular Cursed Mummy, a poor soul who was once a prince.

While both gameplay styles feature plenty of platforming and puzzle solving, whereas Sphinx throws in combat and lots of exploration, the Mummy is simply focused on puzzles and platforms. Both Sphinx and the Mummy are completely in separate areas of the game and only cross paths at the very conclusion of the 15-hour adventure. Generally, when Sphinx needs a special item or ability to continue in his journey, the Mummy will be called upon, awakened, and tasked with finding the item in the hazard-filled castle he's imprisoned in.

Sphinx slices this skeleton down to size. That'll teach you to have a bone to pick with our hero!
Unlike Sphinx, the Mummy has no health gauge to worry about. He can fall in pits, get crushed, set ablaze, electrocuted, and sawed into thirds without you receiving any game overs to speak of. In fact, all of these otherwise dangerous occurrences that would kill Sphinx in a snap of a finger actually benefit the Mummy in order to solve environmental puzzles. Certain doors and gates can only be opened by turning on a generator via an electrocuted Mummy, whereas wooden obstacles in the Mummy's way burn up with ease while he's on fire. It's all about figuring out how to transport the Mummy to the areas he needs to electrify or set fire to without stepping foot in or being doused with water, which will cancel any elemental effects happening to him.

Positively shocking. (Yes, that was a really easy joke to make, and I hate myself for it.)
Meanwhile, Sphinx is the more traditional character in the game, armed with a sword and as his adventure progresses, receives new items and abilities in true action-adventure game style. While Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy no doubt has its clear inspirations from The Legend of Zelda series (such as collecting four Heart Pieces--I mean, Gold Ankhs--to increase Link's--I mean, Sphinx's health by one), the structure is vastly different. Yes, there are still things like dungeons to conquer, where keys are needed to unlock doors, but there's seldom a boss to battle at the end. Instead, these encounters pop up here and there throughout the story. Though, what bosses Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy does have are mostly rather mediocre.

One of many dungeons filled with dangers, enemies and puzzles to tackle.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is just like one of the artifacts from the Ancient Egyptian world the game takes place in--rather antiquated. The camera can get stuck at times, especially in narrow passageways, unable to turn around quickly enough. Combat is a bit clunky, and would have greatly benefited from a certain series's lock-on targeting. Jumping and platforming lack polish, resulting in more missed jumps than I would have liked to experience, plus many occasions where I'd think I could jump on something, only to fall to my doom.

Lastly, and most egregious to me, is the save system in Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy. Utilizing save statues at various points in the game, these are quite frankly way too spaced out, particularly in the Mummy segments. In these you simply get the save point at the start of the section, and you must play through the segment of jumps and puzzles--some taking over a half-hour to complete--without the ability to save. This is most frustrating when playing as Sphinx, as if you don't save and you perish in battle or while exploring, you get kicked out of the game to the title screen with all of your progress past the last time you saved at a save statue gone. I once lost 30 minutes of progress because of this once, and it almost made me stop playing the game completely. And let's not even talk about the point of no return near the end of the game that you can save your progress in, blocking you from ever revisiting past areas...

Sphinx won't say it because he's the strong, silent type, but you know what he's thinking: "WHEEEEEEEEE!"
Sadly, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is a bare-bones remaster of a 16-year-old game that only went so far as to touch up on the visuals of the game than add gameplay improvements and refine parts that didn't hold up so well. This could have been a chance to rework negative aspects of the adventure, such as the aforementioned save system, but instead, what you have is a basic HD remastering of what is a competent and engaging game, but one that is definitely a product of its time, with all of the wrinkles of that time included.

[SPC Says: C+]

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