THQ Nordic aren’t one to shy away from reviving IP that was seemingly long-gone, but even I was surprised to see them release a remastered version of a fairly unknown platformer that initially released back in 2004. Whilst Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy might not have been on everyone’s wish list for a remastered release though, that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t stood the test of time – sure, it’s a little dated in places, but the game still manages to offer an enjoyable action-platforming experience fifteen years on.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy tells the story of Sphinx, an Egyptian demi-god, and Tutankhamun, a prince who ends up turning into a mummy thanks to the meddling antics of his older brother. The pair encounter each other when Sphinx is working for Imhotep to recover the Blade of Osiris and end up in a strange predicament that threatens the well-being of Egypt, with the vicious god Set revealing himself to be behind the nefarious scheme. It’s up to Sphinx and Tutankhamun to work together to defeat Set and bring peace back to Egypt, and you get to control both throughout the game.
Sphinx takes on a more action-focused role with his sections primarily focusing on platforming and fighting. You’ll start off with a basic skillset, but it doesn’t take long before you unlock new combat moves and abilities that’ll help you traverse further across the game’s environment. It’s almost like a 3D Metroidvania title, with the player re-visiting a lot of previously trodden areas when they’ve got some new tricks up their sleeve to reach those places that were once inaccessible – it means there’s some backtracking involved, but it never feels too tedious.
The combat mechanics are all fairly simple in design, with the player able to button-mash their way through most encounters. It’s never too difficult either (despite a lack of a lock-on function), but the neat abilities at your disposal ensure you will have fun taking down your foes. At least the boss fights are a bit more challenging and provide a more exciting showdown though, so you can look forward to the selection of those that you’ll encounter along your adventure.
Tutankhamun’s role is a lot more puzzle-focused, with an emphasis placed on using your wit and your… um… ‘undeadness’ in order to progress. How does being undead work to your advantage, I hear you ask? Well, it means you can do things like light yourself on fire or conduct electricity through your body in order to solve enigmas, of course. Much like Sphinx, Tutankhamun’s skillset grows as you progress through the game, so you’ll always find all-new ways to solve the many elaborate puzzles that you encounter on your journey. Sure, there’s nothing too complex puzzle-wise, but those who appreciate doing more than running, jumping and fighting will surely find Tutankhamun’s sections to be a highlight of the whole experience.
Between both Sphinx and Tutankhamun’s roles, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy and the gameplay even manages to feel enjoyable fifteen years on. However, there are some things that feel pretty dated, such as the camera which feels twitchy and difficult to maintain. Whilst it’s not a common issue throughout the game, I did find that it struggled to keep up with the action on more than a few instances – it’s the sort of thing which can be pretty frustrating when trying to pull off inch-perfect jumps between platforms.
The game could also be a little guilty of offering very little guidance to the player, with it never clearly signposted where you need to go or what you actually need to do. Now I know this is an old-school experience where the player is expected to figure out a lot more things themselves, but given how large some of the game’s environments are and how few and far between save points are, it was hard not to get a little bit annoyed in the moments where I got stuck and had no idea where I had to go across the vast world. Maybe some of that is due to my own gaming inadequacies, though I’m sure it’ll be the case for even the most seasoned of platform-adventure veterans too.
Visually, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy clearly looks like an upscaled PlayStation 2 game, but that doesn’t mean that it’s bad: there’s some decent character designs on show, the environments are interesting, whilst the actual textures themselves hold up well. The same goes for the sound design which manages to fit perfectly within the Egyptian world with some catchy little tunes playing throughout your adventure. The only issue I had was that there was no audio dialogue to go along with character’s mouths moving during cutscenes, which was a little jarring – it’s a small issue and one that doesn’t affect gameplay though, so it’s easy to live with.
Whilst Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy can feel dated thanks to some sketchy camera controls and awkward gameplay mechanics, it still manages to hold up well fifteen years after its initial release. THQ Nordic have done a good job in remastering the game, whilst the combination of Sphinx’s fun action sequences and Tutankhamun’s more puzzle-orientated gameplay will make for an enjoyable endeavour for any action-platforming fan.
It’s far from perfect and there are certainly better modern releases in the genre to choose from these days, but anyone who wants a fun blast to the past may want to give Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy a try.
Developer: Eurocom, THQ Nordic
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC