Played on: Nintendo Switch
Developed by: Eurocom
Published by: THQ Nordic
First released in 2003 for the PlayStation 2, GameCube and original Xbox, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy doesn’t necessarily feel like a game from 16 years ago. A decade and a half after its original release, it’s now available on-the-go on Nintendo Switch in a newer HD incarnation. Retaining all of the original’s charm without compromising on its enjoyable gameplay makes Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy a joy to play.
Taking place in a fictional version of Ancient Egypt, the game follows the story of Sphinx and his rather unwilling pal the Mummy. Sphinx is the strong and almost-silent type, preferring to fight his way out of a problem. On the other hand, Mummy is an Egyptian prince hit by a curse-gone-wrong who’d rather be solving puzzles than doing any physical work. They’re like ancient chalk and long-aged cheese, but they still work together perfectly.
The formidable brains-and-brawn duo wind up teaming up to save Ancient Egypt from the wrath of a chaotic god, completing side quests and helping the odd NPC or two or fifty along the way. Sphinx is tasked with retrieving ancient artifacts by the god Anubis while the Mummy uses his undead status to his advantage and navigates the trap-riddled Castle of Uruk to find more items to help Sphinx. It’s your typical mid-2000s action-adventure formula, with a hint of historical bromance, and its story doesn’t disappoint.
One of the game’s most notable features is how the two halves of its gameplay are split between its protagonists. Sphinx, as the brawn, handles the heavy lifting whereas Mummy sticks wholly to the myriad of puzzles dotted throughout the games. Thankfully, this means that the player isn’t constantly bombarded with action from every angle, allowing for breaks and breathers to enjoy the game’s narrative. It’s a nice mix-up for the usual action-action-action genre and it still works 16 years later.
Everything in Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is presented in a beautiful modern-retro style. Instead of completely revamping the game’s style à la Spyro: Reignited Trilogy, in-game objects have just been given more HD textures. This means that it still looks like a retro game from a distance, but looks much nicer up close. The UI’s had an overhaul too, taking it from the large, cartoonish buttons and Nintendo 64-esque theming it had before and making it more streamlined.
The play-style, camera angles, and puzzle solving all have that ‘early 2000s’ feel and, at times, it’s almost easy to forget that you’re playing a game many years later and on a modern console, especially seeing as it retains the “you’ll probably need a walkthrough” theme that was common in earlier videogames. This isn’t a complete remake – it’s just a more graphically enhanced version of the original game, meaning that the difficulty level of the game and the quests remain exactly the same. As such, the game also shares several minor problems with the original, such as the lackluster voice acting in several cutscenes and sort of fiddly controls. It also has one of my video game pet peeves, wherein the quest menu only really tells you your overall goal and gives you no clue as to what you’re actually doing at any given moment. You might need to keep a walkthrough on-hand while playing.
The main problem with the game, however, is the hefty price tag. The game is $29.99 on Nintendo Switch and for a game that’s mostly just a graphical upgrade, that seems a little steep, especially as the HD version of the game is also available on PC, macOS, and Linux for just $14.99. While it’s a fun game to get lost in while on the go, despite the fact that save points tend to be few and far between, it’s sort of difficult to justify such a high price.
In summary, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is a slice of gaming nostalgia that’s been neatly polished to fit with the modern age. If you can look past the price tag, or if you played the original when you were younger, or even if you were a fan of other Eurocom games such as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, then I’d heartily recommend adding it to your gaming library, regardless of whether it’s the Nintendo Switch or the desktop version. Just remember to bear in mind that it’s not a fancy remake or a complete overhaul – it’s just the same old game with better looking features, like a mummy in a bejeweled sarcophagus.