Of all the many Nintendo Switch ports Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy might be the most confusing. Originally released in 2003 and developed by the now defunct Eurocom, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy was one of many 3D action platformers that released for the sixth generation of consoles. At the time Sphinx was generally well received critically but a commercial flop, not even receiving cult classic status. The early '00s were flooded with 3D platformers and Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy was just another drop in the ocean.
Fast forward to today and THQ Nordic now has the Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy license. After releasing a remastered version on PC in 2017, THQ Nordic has brought the game to Switch. The Switch port is identical to the 2017 version but, problematically, the game plays exactly like 2003 original. A few new textures can’t help Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy from feeling like a 16 year-old game that should've stayed in the past.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy has an interesting concept. It’s not necessarily unique in 2019 but it’s still intriguing. There are two playable characters in the game, the brave warrior Sphinx and the cowardly mummy of Tutankhamen. They play completely differently with Sphinx's sections of the game being Zelda-esque. He jumps, explores, bashes enemies with his sword and solves minor puzzles. The Mummy meanwhile avoids combat, almost entirely preferring to sneak and scheme. If Sphinx is the brawn, Mummy is the brains.
To Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy’s credit this mix of gameplay styles works as well in 2019 as it did in 2003. The switching between gameplay styles allows Sphinx to feel fresher for longer. Yet one decent game mechanic, however crucial, can’t save the entire experience. For better and (much) worse, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is a game from 2003 that’s been rocketed into 2019 with few updates.
The most obvious flaw are the visuals. While Sphinx and The Mummy's character models look good, the same work didn't appear to go into the world they inhabit. NPCs look right out of the new millennium and environments are flat, jagged and empty. This is especially present in Switch’s lower resolution handheld mode. These visuals are more than just aesthetic flaw too as the poor rendering of the environments and special effects can make some objectives much more difficult than needed. It’s not obvious what is a survivable platform and what's deadly one because they have the same blocky structure.
Gameplay is just as dated. The different styles of the two playable characters are initially interesting but overall, Sphinx is a frustrating relic of the past and is oftentimes just plain boring. The camera is often uncooperative and too bouncy, and platforming is awkward with the Sphinx character feeling as if he's made of helium and far too floaty. The Mummy, since he’s less platform focused, is much easier to control by comparison but platforming controls aren't the only added danger. Combat feels like it's up to chance with no targeting system and Sphinx wildly throwing his sword back and forth in the direction of enemies.
The most disappointing aspect of Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy by far however, is that it's just plain lifeless. Sphinx has huge levels but in 2019 those levels are expected to be teeming with life, secrets or both. This isn’t the case with Sphinx where the environments are barren and bland. The sound design doesn’t pick up the slack either. Despite a lot of dialogue in the game there’s no voice acting. There are just lines and lines of text which fail to help make the long story engaging. The music is painfully generic as well so even that can't keep the interest going for long. Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is set in a fantasy version of ancient Egypt but none of that personality comes across in the game.
An important flaw to note with Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is an issue with the audio while playing in the Switch's TV mode. Screen Rant's review copy was unable to play sound while playing the game with the Switch docked. The audio worked fine in handheld mode but all audio dropped once the Switch was in its dock. We've reached out to THQ Nordic and they've identified the issue and promised a fix will be available within a week.
Even if the lack of audio is just a temporary issue it’s still hard to recommend Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy for its steep price point. It's a 16-year old game that didn't age well and that doesn't carry much nostalgic value.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is available now for $29.99 on Nintendo Switch. Screen Rant was provided a copy for review.