Review: Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy


Published on Jan 29, 2019 at 1:00 PM by Glen o’brien

Ask any die-hard Nintendo fan what they’d like to see on the Switch and I guarantee someone will say something like, “I want Gamecube Virtual Console games.” While there’s no sign from Nintendo on this yet, THQ Nordic has decided to take it up a notch by releasing one of its own Gamecube titles.

Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is a third-person action-adventure game released in 2004. You play as Sphinx, who, along with his avian comrade Horus, is tasked with finding the legendary blade of Osiris in order to defeat the darkness. God Set. Understandably, things go a bit wrong when the two are attacked by giant laser beams from a disturbing tower. Horus disappears and Sphinx is forced to use a mysterious portal that leads to who knows where.

A magical place where people levitate keys for fun.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian prince named Tutankhamun is getting ready to celebrate his birthday. While performing the normal pre-anniversary ritual of exploring all of his palace’s hidden passages, he stumbles upon a vile plot to use Tutankhamun’s body as a host for Set to inhabit it. It is, however, too late for this to stop and the prince is then mummified and killed. This definitely puts it in the “Worst Birthday Ever” category.

History is not really all of that. It’s pretty functional, but other than a few little twists I saw coming a mile and a half away, there’s not much that is going to make you think about it once you’re done. The characters you meet are basically there to guide you to your next goal or to provide services or challenge you with mini-games anyway and that’s fine.

Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy plays quite similar to the 3D Zelda titles of the time. You explore a variety of locations and dungeons, find items to use and puzzles to solve. As expected, there are a whole bunch of enemies trying to get in your way and will likely need to be knocked back with your sword. Unfortunately, I found the combat in this game to be quite poor. Sphinx doesn’t have a wide variety of attacks to use. It’s limited to a basic 3-hit combo, wide backhand slash, and slam attack that you gain at the start of the game. However, there is no type of targeting system for when you are in a fight. That meant I found myself struggling with the camera as much as with the monsters, and it’s certainly not a great camera to start with. The controls also take a little getting used to; The movement of the Sphinx can sometimes seem a little stiff. It’s not too bad and after a few hours I got used to how the mechanics worked. Mind you, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game supported gyro controls to aim projectiles and the use of the touchscreen to move the camera in handheld mode.

While the majority of the game has you playing as the Sphinx, every now and then you play as the recently deceased Prince Tutankhamun. His corpse is revived and he explores Set’s lair to find information and items that can aid Sphinx in his quest. However, he is still technically dead and therefore has no health bars. This results in an interesting game loop of using the many traps Set has placed for intruders to change the dead prince’s state so he can solve puzzles. Tutankhamun can be set on fire, electrically charged, flattened, and even cut into three separate mummies. If you’ve played Wario Land 2 or 3 before, you’ll know what to expect from here.

Sphinx and the cursed mummy Image2Something tells me this mom has a real bone to choose with someone.

Honestly, these mummy sections are my favorite part of the game and I kinda wish the game had more of them. By the time I got to the end of the game, I kept thinking to myself, “When can I play the mummy again?” You might see him as the main star who is overshadowed by a supporting role, but I like to think of it as a smart idea that saves the whole game from mediocrity. The game as a whole is quite long, with a number of side quests to keep the finalists busy.

Visually speaking, the game looks a bit dated. That’s to be expected from a 15-year-old game, and no amount of HD remastering will completely hide it. It was certainly not a lousy game at the time. The characters tend to have overkill animations, which definitely contributes to the cartoonish feel of the game, and anyone can tell you that a cartoon art style will always age better than a more realistic one. . The game manages to look good in portable or docked mode thanks to its vivid colors and crisp, wide text.

Sphinx and the cursed mummy Image3Sphinx did not appreciate the jokes about his lack of shoes.

The music is pretty forgettable throughout though. Average Egyptian sounding songs that won’t really stay in your head once the game is over. The game is inspired by The Wind Waker and has music playing whenever you manage to hit an enemy, but other than that nothing really impressed me in the sound department. That said, don’t expect a voice acting for dialogue either, you get mouth beats in complete silence here.

All in all, if you’re like me and the latest Zelda hasn’t really scratched that old-fashioned 3D Zelda itch, you could do a lot worse than playing Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy. It does what it sets out to do quite competently and if you’re willing to skip some more old-fashioned game design choices, you’ll have a great time here. Only good, and not much more.


Comments are closed.