Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also On: PC
Publisher: THQ Nordic
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy on the Switch exists. I know that THQ Nordic has a thing for re-releasing games from previous generations with semi-fresh coats of paint (and I’m certainly not going to complain about replaying de Blob one more time), but given that Sphinx didn’t exactly set the world on fire the first time around, it’s hard to see why they thought that the world was suddenly ripe for the game to return sixteen years after it was originally released on PS2.
I mean, it’s not even a case of an overlooked classic getting a chance to be discovered by a new generation of fans. I never played it when it first came out, but reading through reviews of the day, it seems like Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy was viewed as a few steps behind games like Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter, and Sly Cooper. A decade and a half later and with the benefit of hindsight, those steps seem pretty enormous.
Of course, even if Sphinx wasn’t far behind its 2002 contemporaries, it definitely lags far behind what makes up a good 3D platformer in 2019. For starters, the mechanics are pretty clunky. The titular main character feels a little too weighty, and not in a good way. His regular movements feel a little unbalanced, and when he has to do anything involving climbing or jumping, it’s downright awkward. Unsurprisingly, this extends to the combat as well, as his proficiency with a weapon feels more like flailing than fighting.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy also suffers from a variety of annoying game design choices. The cutscenes are unskippable, which is too bad, because they seldom tell you very much. Even worse, though, the save points are few and far between, and it can be extremely frustrating to go somewhat far, die, and then discover that the last time you were able to save was long, long before. The game also punishes you for saving with low health: if, for example, you save your progress with only minimal health remaining, when you die and continue, you still only have that low amount of health. Coupled with the paucity of save points, it’s awfully easy to get stuck in a negative loop of dying and continuing, with the only way to break the cycle simply deleting your save file and starting over again.
It should come as no surprise that Sphinx’s look and feel hasn’t aged particularly well either. While it’s undeniably better looking than it was when it came out on PS2 (if YouTube videos are anything to go by, at least), it still looks extremely dated.
In fact, “extremely dated” could be Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy’s tagline (no pun intended). As I said at the beginning of this review, it’s hard to figure out why THQ wanted to bring this game back more than 15 years after it was originally released, because there’s nothing to be found here that suggests the game deserved to be resurrected from obscurity.
THQ Nordic provided us with a Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy Switch code for review purposes.