What walks on catman legs at morning, prince legs at noon, and mummy legs at night?
Gotta love a classic.
So, Sphinx & The Cursed Mummy. It's one of those games from the PS2 era, when the baseline action game was something more akin to a Zelda clone than an open-world with light RPG elements. Originally released in 2003 on all the consoles, it got a PC release in 2017, and now a shiny HD remaster on the Nintendo Switch.
The game's pitch is...Well actually it's not that simple at all. Let's start from gameplay concept out. You play as a mix of two characters. Yes, they are indeed Sphinx, and a cursed mummy. The core idea here is that each of these two has a different gameplay style:
Sphinx is doing that action-platformer simple-puzzles thing of a lot of the games from this original era. He runs, jumps, swings a sword, gets a bunch of items, all that jazz. Meanwhile, the Mummy(of a young prince Tutankhamen, to be precise), being already dead, has this Wario Land style going on. He can face everything from electrocutuion to crushing, and endure all of it as it puts him into crazy specific states for more complicated puzzles.
It's an interesting mix of setups, that keeps either one from overstaying its welcome too badly. Just when you tire of figuring out a complex puzzle for the Mummy, you get to switch back to Sphinx and do something more straightforward and punchy, and vice versa.
Story-wise, we've got layers. See, Sphinx is an apprentice under Imhotep, tasked with retrieving the Blade of Osiris from the hellish land of Uruk. At the very same time as you're doing that, Tutenkhamen's brother is starting up a hearty, good old-fashioned coup to try and take the throne for himself, an effort that ends with the young prince's body turned into a mummy and his soul ripped to pieces.
Which, uh, isn't great for one's continued living. Not even a little bit.
So you've got the sword, you've got a hellscape, you've got a royal coup, you've got drama brewing on Imhotep's side, and oh yeah, you've got clashing and trouble amidst the gods, because of course you do. And allll of this has to be set right or things are going to go all sideways for basically everyone ever, thus forcing Sphinx and the Mummy to form an impromptu partnership.
Like I said. Layers. While it's not the most complex or darkest of plots, there's a lot more going on here than your typical slapdash action-platformer of the era. Like, there's a reason the original game has a bit of cult-classic status, you know?
And even within its position as a representation of an older game of a specific era, there are a few really nice little extras that Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy slips in. For instance, item assignment has always been a fussy thing in these games, but here, not only do you have a live-menu as well as the paused inventory, but you also have a Use button on that menu. So if you just need something real quick for a puzzle, you can tap down to it without having to actually mess up your buttons.
Of course, this is most necessary because the game holds the four face buttons for actions, and the Z triggers for camera reset, leaving just L and R as item assignment points. More buttons, or a shift function or something, would have been nice.
And there are some things that are rough because of its era. The physics are kind of wonky, as are the animations. There's a general...Sluggish feel to the controls, is the best way I can describe it, where characters have a little too much weight to them to move entirely how you want them to. It's kind of a common issue from that era, really, a weird mix of timing, response, and a clash of animations versus the speed of their effects.
Also, we have basically zero voice acting. Which, I mean, isn't unheard of for games of this era, but it's made extra weird when the game is clearly timed for voice. There's a lot of times where I'm watching a cutscene, having read the subtitles ages ago, and watching the characters mouth the words silently. And not just for big cutscenes where the game's going to strain to be as cinematic as possible, but little things.
But the thing I really notice are bugs. I'm not sure if these are from the original release, or new to this HD remaster, but I ran into a fair handful of little bugs in my time with the game. One dungeon, especially, was bad: I had Sphinx glitch a miniboss out of existence, a chest's 'open' wouldn't appear, and an enemy failed to get up to an area I was supposed to lead them to.
These problems went away after a reload, sure, but bugs that mess up a puzzle sequence are the worst. I spent like 20 minutes trying to figure out if I had to do something to open or break the chest, before I finally happened to die, and on reload went in to just find an open command waiting for me when I walked up to the thing.
Now, of course, these are the kinds of things that modern patching is for. Catching these odd little problems...Well, I won't say it's easy, but I will say that if they've got a team working on maintaining this title and improving upon it, these are almost certainly fixable problems.
And that also puts a big question at the heart of this: Why, exactly, are they bringing back Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy? Is it just because they had the HD PC port's assets available and the Switch is that easy to port to, or is there actual interest in this as a revival towards a franchise? Because that could go a lot of good places. But if this is just a quick little thing for an easy buck...Well, this surprisingly good little jewel in the rough deserves better than that, quite frankly.
That's a question we won't really know for a while. But, as it is, I think this is a pretty solid way to play a quirky, interesting game that probably passed you by the first time. So give it a shot, see what you think.