It’s a Wrap – A TBT Review of Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy
The PlayStation 2 era of gaming had many gems. It was one of the best-selling consoles in the era and with the roster it had, it was plain to see why. One game from that era has always stuck with me, and remains to this day, one of the many reasons I’ve kept the platform. Eurocom’s puzzle/platformer, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, released to warm reception on November 10th, 2003.
If you know me at all, you will know that Ancient Egypt is my all-time favorite historical period and Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy gets the setting just right. Levels like Heliopolis and Abydos gather inspiration from their real-world counterparts; one of Ancient Egypt’s oldest cities, Heliopolis today is mostly in ruin, and the game’s version capitalizes on this with ancient, crumbling temples and statues, while Abydos–also one of Egypt’s oldest–is a bustling seaport, with museums and entertainment.
Both of these levels hold narrative importance, in accordance with their counterparts. For example, Abydos was the site of many temples, including Umm el-Qa’ab, a royal necropolis. It is also the site of the Memorial of Seti, which contains an inscription from the nineteenth dynasty known to the modern world as the Abydos King List. These specific places aren’t necessarily important to the respective level, but to the narrative in which the level weaves.
The narrative follows teenage Sphinx, a novice warrior charge of Master Imhotep. He tasked Spinx and his other charge, Horus, with investigation of the menacing Uruk castle in search of the Blade of Osiris. Little is known of the castle, save for the fact that it is part of the “Land of Darkness.” The two demigods find themselves in a spot of trouble when Horus is supposedly killed by the castle’s first line of defense, a giant death ray powered by the magma that pools around the castle. Sphinx completes the mission as he finds the Blade, but is then transported to an unknown location via portal.Meanwhile, young Prince Tutankhamen of Luxor is celebrating his birthday. To the Prince’s dismay however, his day turns south when his traitor brother Akhenaten tricks him into being part of a ritual that turns him into a mummy (essentially killing him) in a politically-charged maneuver that would essentially make him pharaoh. Sphinx interrupts this ritual and thus, Prince Tut is–for lack of a better term–only half-dead, and both Akhenaten and Tutankhamen are transported to the Uruk Castle, where parts of Tutankhamen’s soul have been locked away in Canopic Vases.
We later learn Akhenaten is actually the dark god Set, who had planned to use Tut’s position as prince to bring darkness back to Egypt. Sphinx and Imhotep hatch a plan to foil Set in his ploy for the throne, utilizing Tut’s undead form, bringing him back to life through his Canopic Vases. Each time the player finds one of these vases, control switches over to the Mummy.
The dual nature of gameplay featured in Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is more than a simple mechanic. Each character plays to their strengths, and personalities: Sphinx, the warrior, commands the Blade of Osiris and many other tools to defend himself and others against the wilds of Ancient Egypt; he is headstrong, tenacious, and selfless. Tut, the puzzler, capitalizing on his undead state, is able to bypass locks and puzzles by catching himself on fire, or electrocuting himself; he is timid, modest, and good-natured. This offered dynamic and exciting gameplay, and helped flush the narrative as well. Sphinx’s mechanics are as solid as any action platformer of its age. Sphinx himself is a capable fighter, with great combos and unlockable abilities like double jump and fast swim and movement detection for each character and their attributes is extremely firm. I can’t remember having any issues during platforming sections.
As with any game with decent narrative, comes environmental and musical storytelling. And Sphinx would not be as effective a game without it’s unique locations (which I discussed above), but more than that, I don’t believe the game would have stuck out so well for me without its stellar soundtrack. I still listen to it at least once a month. Have a listen for yourselves here. My favorite one though, has to be The Book of Sphinx (inventory menu) music. I would open the Book of Sphinx and just leave it there while I listened to the soothing melody.
The OST just offers such a dynamic vibe and really sets the mood for each encounter, puzzle, and entire game.
Since then THQ liquidated and the property for Sphinx was thought lost, however THQ Nordic (formerly Nordic Games) has been confirmed to have picked up the IP after picking up the pieces of the old publisher. This means we may see a remaster (THQ Nordic CEO Lars Wingefors has said as much) and even a sequel for Sphinx as well as support for the Nintendo Switch.
This is extremely exciting news for me, because I would love another chance to relive the time I had with the original, especially with updated graphics and a sequel to boot.
I give Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy a