Another day, another remaster of a game from console generations long past. I imagine it must be pretty manic over at THQ Nordic, with their recent influx of buying old IPs and acquiring new licences, I presume they’re always getting emails from fans asking when a certain nostalgic franchise will be remade or remastered. However, I also presume this sort of pressure may have a knock-on impact on the publisher bringing us new and exciting IPs from various developers, as a lot of them seem to be tied up with remasters/remakes at the moment – Let’s not forget all those Nickelodeon remasters we’re supposedly getting in the near future!
I will admit that I vaguely remember when Sphinx and The Cursed Mummy came out in 2003, but I never actually had the chance to play it back then. Not that there wasn’t the ability to, the game was available on Gamecube, Xbox and PlayStation 2; I just wasn’t that interested in the game at the time. Originally developed by Eurocom and published by THQ Nordic, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy has made its way over from the PC (as a fully remastered with updated textures version) onto the Nintendo Switch.
When the game was originally released it was received by critics with high praise. However, good reviews and praise across the board for the game didn’t equate to good sales as Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy didn’t sell very well back on its first release. I personally remember thinking that the game looked pretty good, but it came off as a Legend of Zelda clone. To some extent, after recently playing the game, I realised that I was partially right…
Over the past year, we have watched as classics such as Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot have seen remakes that have been received well by fans and critics, so it is no surprise that we start seeing other platformers from that time frame also see the light of day. Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy has benefited greatly with its new facelift. In fact, the graphics overhaul give that cartoonish feel of yesteryear that I grew up with, a look that is timeless and very nostalgic to the time period. I would be willing to say that you could play this remaster in 10 years and it will still look and feel great as it does now.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy has a fun story that will probably take you between 13-18 hours to complete, skill level permitting of course. The beginning of the game sees you as Sphinx trying to steal the Blades of Osiris. This is where you will have a tutorial on your most basic functions. What makes the game truly feel unique from other games is that when you reach a certain point, you will transition from playing as Sphinx to playing as a mummified Tutankhamun.
The best way I can describe each character’s gameplay is that playing Sphinx, first of all, is very similar to playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as there is a lot of action with platforming. Tutankhamun, on the other hand, amounts to more platforming and problem-solving. You will find that playing as both characters is enjoyable as it breaks up the gameplay to deliver a much more balanced and exciting dynamic. Personally, I enjoyed playing as Tutankhamun more based solely on all the comedic narrative and events which goes along with solving the puzzles. Tutankhamun is immortal, so dying is not an option. He can be squished and set ablaze and if anything, you use these abilities to help solve puzzles.
Graphically, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy looks great, but I really want to talk about some of the faults I felt the game had. The biggest issue is that there are no manual saves. I know the game is just a remaster of the original game, and not a remake, so THQ Nordic wouldn’t have gone out of their way to implement something which wasn’t there originally, but in 2019 we shouldn’t have to think about saving our game before we turn off the console.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a long-time fan of RPG’s so I am not new to the concept, but I just feel like this was a major design flaw in terms of modernising the game. I feel like the opportunity to save is also few and far between. This doesn’t show any respect to the gamers time. Not everyone has the ability to put their Switch on rest mode and know that their antsy children won’t pick it up to play Super Smash Brothers Ultimate and nullify all the progress they made before finding the next save statue, not that I am speaking from experience or anything!
When critics first played the game 16 years ago, they cited the lack of voice acting as a fault. I feel that perhaps that was unfair to say of the game back then, however with the technology we have now, there should be no excuse. I don’t know of anybody that was asking for this game to get remastered for consoles so as a developer, I feel like THQ Nordic dropped the ball when they didn’t try to add at least some voice acting to help break up the heavy text. I didn’t play the original, so I do not know how floaty the controls were, but when playing this remaster, I felt like the platforming aspects were not as tight as they could be. Eventually, you do get used to it, but I just felt that it was distracting to me at first.
Sphinx and The Cursed Mummy is a fun puzzle platformer that works really well on the Nintendo Switch. As far as the remaster is concerned, THQ Nordic did a great job with taking a game that is 16 years old and bringing it back to life for a new generation. The game is not necessarily for everyone though as fans of the original game will be delighted by the visual upgrades the game received, but I don’t see any other big draw to purchase the game if you never played it before.
That being said, if THQ Nordic decides to make a sequel then they will have a great starting point. The advancements in console technology could make the sequel a real contender against the lacking 3D platformer market we that we currently have.