Over fifteen years old and originally released on PS2, Xbox and GameCube, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy was raised from the dead. A remaster of the game is now available on Switch.
Why? Who knows. While its original release fared well with critics, I can’t say that it was ever a particularly lauded title; I had never even heard of the original. I can only imagine the recent success of remasters such as Spyro and Crash Bandicoot has also created other 3D platforms of old crawls from the woodwork. Some of them really should have stayed there, like last year Asterix and Obelix XXL 2. I’m on the fence with Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, although. Although it is clearly very dated, it does have a certain charm that is hard to find in more modern versions. But if that’s enough to justify buying a game that’s almost old enough to ride a moped, I’m just not so sure.
The remastering work done on Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is light, but sufficient. It’s nowhere near the scale of the work Toys for Bob and Activision did with last year. Spyro Reignited Trilogy, which was basically redone from scratch. Instead, the textures have been cleaned up, the character models have been given a bit of extra detail, and a fresh coat of paint has been splashed here and there. In virtually every way though, that’s exactly the game it was 15 years ago, warts and everything.
That’s not to say it looks terrible, however. Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy shows its age, but even two generations later, it’s easy to appreciate its artistic style and aesthetic. The environments might not be as crisp as they used to be, but they’re still beautifully designed and filled with character. Its Egyptian-themed landscapes are full of detail, and if this game were made with 2019 technologies, it would be truly mind-blowing. As it is, it’s still quite pleasant to watch, especially when playing in portable mode.
But it’s the gameplay that matters most, and here Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is a mixed bag. It’s a surprisingly large game, with plenty of areas to explore, new skills to unlock, and plenty of NPCs to meet and enemies to fight along the way. Like any traditional third-person action-adventure game, it’s packed with puzzles and environmental combats. And when you’re in the throes of things, it’s a lot of fun. The puzzles are rewarding to complete without ever getting too complicated. Combat is a straightforward affair, but even pressing a button to swing your primary weapon is quite enjoyable. But, as enjoyable as the in-game environments are to explore, it’s all too easy to get lost – and there’s hardly any signpost to point you in the right direction.
Often times, your task at hand will be passed to you through a conversation with an NPC. Ignore this conversation (text only) and you don’t know what to do next. You will need to make sure you speak with everyone in an area as well, as your main goal may not become clear until you do. This means that progressing through more open areas can be strenuous. And without a heads-up display or mini-map – which would be an absolute godsend in some of the Sphinx and the Cursed Mummylarger areas – sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’ve missed an important spot.
If you’re happy to take your time with a game and constantly revisit the same places to try and figure out what you’ve been missing out on, then great. But it looks like the games have gotten better over the past fifteen years, that’s a respect for our time. It’s not necessarily about holding hands, but the occasional nudge in the right direction can save a lot of frustration.
Another inconvenience, where Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy really shows that its age is its save points – or lack thereof. We are back in 2003, remember; in the days before our good friend, autosave was rife. You can only save your progress to a save point, and they are quite rare. In the event of death, be prepared to lose up to 30 minutes of progress, or more. Fortunately, the game isn’t so grueling that you should find yourself dying a lot – but with limited health, it’s not out of the question that an enemy might catch you by surprise.
I will not tell Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is an essential purchase on Nintendo Switch. If you have fond memories of the original, I’m sure it will be fun to come back to it. And if you’re a die-hard 3D platformer fan (does this exist?), Then you’ll probably find something to enjoy here. But for us, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is just a little too dated to carve out a place for itself in the modern market. Its aesthetic may still have a certain charm, but next to the tastes of Super Mario Odyssey, or even the remakes of crash and Spyro, it just does not hold.