Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy
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|Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy|
European cover art
August 19, 2004
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is an original third person action-adventure video game inspired by the mythology of Ancient Egypt for the Xbox, PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube consoles. The game was developed by Eurocom and published by THQ. It was released on November 10, 2003 in North America and on February 20, 2004 in the PAL region. A mobile version was released on August 19, 2004.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Plot
- 3 Setting
- 4 Characters
- 5 Development
- 6 Mobile version
- 7 Reception
- 8 External links
- 9 References
In Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, the player falls into the role of a demi-god, Sphinx, and the undead corpse of Tutankhamen. Sphinx's role is one of a brave warrior who battles fearsome monsters and relies on raw power to complete tasks. Tutenkhanmen, also known as the Mummy, revolves around puzzle-solving and logical thinking to outwit his foes.
The fantasy land of Egypt in which the game is set is in a period of turmoil when we are introduced to Sphinx, one of the main protagonists. He and his colleague Horus are given the task of retrieving the Blade of Osiris, a legendary sword. They are taken to Uruk, "the land of darkness", by their master Imhotep where they eventually find the Blade. Horus is attacked and supposedly killed by a deadly ray that protects The Castle of Uruk, a mysterious building that houses evil. Sphinx retrieves the Blade, but while trying to escape is also attacked by the ray. He is forced to travel to an unknown location through the use of a portal system.
Meanwhile, the young Prince Tutenkhamen of Luxor celebrates his birthday. His older brother, Akhenaten, captures him and performs a bizarre ritual that turns him into an undead mummy. Sphinx arrives and interrupts the ritual, causing Tutenkhamen and Akhenaten to be teleported to The Castle of Uruk. Sphinx learns that fragments of Tutenkhamen's soul are stored in Canopic Vases, and takes on the task of recollecting them to restore him to his former self. In the Castle, Akhenaten gloats that the recent events were nothing but a minor setback. We then learn that "Akhenaten" is in fact the dark god Set in disguise, and that the real Akhenaten was mummified in the same way as Tutenkhamen to allow Set to assume his form. However, because of Sphinx's actions he cannot disguise himself as Tutenkhamen.
Sphinx and Imhotep devise a plan to use the Mummy/Tutenkhamen's immortality to their benefit; a single Canopic Vase is able to bring him to life for a short while, but he still remains practically dead allowing him to safely venture the trap-riddled Castle of Uruk, as nobody has ever done before. Imhotep creates Bas-ket, who can sneak inside the castle to deliver the Vases to the Mummy. Throughout the story, the Mummy exploits his inability to be killed to survive the traps and retrieve valuable items to aid Sphinx in his quest. In return, Sphinx finds more Canopic Vases over the course of the game and uses Bas-ket to send them to his undead ally.
During his time in Heliopolis, Sphinx learns that the god Anubis has caused great suffering to the people of the land; most prominently, he cast many of them into stone statues. Sphinx's heroic nature appeals to Anubis, and gradually allows him to free the people from their stone curse. However, the tasks given to Sphinx become more dangerous over time. Anubis asks him to retrieve "Sacred Crowns", immensely powerful objects once used by the gods of Egypt.
The first crown to retrieve is the Sacred Crown of Abydos, a land barraged by various disasters and troubles (though not apparent at first, the chaos is the work of Set). Most recently, the Mayor falls very ill and the Crown almost falls into the hands of his traitorous aides. Sphinx is able to save him and in return is rewarded with the crown.
Each crown presents a greater challenge for Sphinx than the previous; he battles and defeats the fearsome Geb Queen for possession of the Sacred Crown of Uruk, and the pharaoh of Heliopolis for the Crown of Heliopolis. As Sphinx proves his might to Anubis, the enigmatic god reveals he cast the people of Heliopolis into stone to protect them from the darkness that will soon descend upon Egypt at the hands of Set.
The Mummy discovers The Sacred Crown of Set, the final crown, in the depths of The Castle of Uruk. He takes it and this greatly weakens the ray protecting the castle. Bas-ket is able to escape with the crown, but Set catches the Mummy and paralyses him.
With all four Sacred Crowns, Anubis is able to Summon Osiris, another god who reveals he and Set were once a single form named Ra. Set, however, became greedy and stole power from Osiris to take over Egypt. Osiris uses the last of his power to transport Sphinx past the defenses of The Castle of Uruk, where he challenges Set for the fate of all Egypt. Set takes on his "true form"; a hideous monster with immense power, but Sphinx is able to defeat him. Set is not destroyed, indeed Imhotep appears and tells Sphinx that this is not in his destiny. Instead, Osiris arrives and forcibly reunites himself with the weakened Set and Ra is formed once again. Ra gives the Mummy the last Canopic Vase, but the Mummy tragically falls and breaks it. The game ends with a cliffhanger as Imhotep states there may be other ways to help Tutenkhamen regain his human form.
Egypt in general
The Egypt of Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy both resembles and differs from the real-life Egypt. It is a land of magic and diverse animals, some fantastic and others vicious. Some of the magical devices and abilities in the world include portals allowing instant transport to faraway places, bringing inanimate objects to life and the power to summon creatures at will. The architecture of the buildings in the game far exceeds that of the real world; the Great Wall of Heliopolis, for example, is absurdly large and exploring inside it would merit an adventure in itself. Most of the inhabitants of the game show animal characteristics, but humans also exist in it.
Referred to as "the land of darkness", Uruk is a volcanic wasteland that is inhabited only by vicious animals. The Castle of Uruk is the most prominent feature and is an enormous structure that overlooks the entire land. From the centre of the castle, a beam of red light ascends into the sky but fires at any living thing unfortunate or foolish enough to wander too close to the building. The castle contains highly advanced technology, some of which could be called futuristic even by today's standards. Uruk was originally inhabited by a peaceful race before Set overthrew the land and created his castle. The last members of the Urukites hide inside the secret passages of the castle.
This area is only explored briefly when we are introduced to Tutenkhamen. The player can only explore the enormous palace and a small outdoor garden, so almost nothing can be said about the environment of Luxor. This area seems to be populated exclusively by humans.
Abydos, a city seemingly built on the sea, was once a prosperous cultural centre of Egypt. During the time of the game, it is devastated by Electric Eels in the water, the theft of the museum's jewel collection and the sickness of the mayor, who was in fact poisoned by Set's servants. The Mummy finds the stolen jewels in The Castle of Uruk, and sends them to Sphinx to be returned. He also discovers vital materials to help Sphinx save the mayor from his illness. The natives of Abydos are anthropomorphic birds who stand with a human posture and can talk.
Much like Abydos, Heliopolis was once a calm, hospitable land but is now little more than a barren desert. A gigantic wall stretches across the entire length of Heliopolis and was constructed by Anubis to protect the people from the evil of Uruk. The native Heliopians are anthropomorphic dogs of various breeds and,like the people of Abydos, can speak perfectly well. It is also the home of Imhotep, one of the game's supporting protagonists.
One of the main protagonists of Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, Sphinx is a heroic warrior who is skilled in battle. Though he starts with nothing but his wits and courage, he later acquires the tools needed to defeat mighty opponents. Sphinx does not talk throughout the entire game, leaving us very little knowledge of his personality. He appears to be almost completely human, but has some feline traits including a tail.
Before being reduced to a shambling mummy, the young prince of Luxor was a curious and somewhat adventurous person. With a fascination of mystical trinkets, his curiosity, supported by his desire to regain his human form, drives him to explore The Castle of Uruk for anything that may help him become normal again and defeat the evil that ravages Egypt.
Imhotep is a magician and Sphinx's mentor. He displays various abilities including freely being able to teleport and bringing inanimate objects to life, notably Bas-ket. Imhotep stands and walks like a human being, but resembles a baboon.
As his name suggests, Basket is a basket brought to life by Imhotep. He displays all the features of a living being (walking, talking, etc.) but is technically not alive, allowing him to bypass the security of The Castle of Uruk. He delivers items back and forth between Sphinx and the Mummy and informs his allies of current situations.
Anubis is a god who overlooks the land of Heliopolis. He is responsible for the monumentous wall that spans across the land and casting the people into stone statues. As he states, these were in fact protective measures. His alliance is ambiguous at first, but becomes a valuable ally to Sphinx over the course of the game.
Osiris is another god of Egypt who secretly resided in Anubis's tower throughout the game. He once formed Ra along with Set, but his power was stolen by the dark god leaving him weak. Osiris is a positive force, and takes in Set to become Ra once again at the end of the game, bringing peace to Egypt.
The mastermind behind the evil that plagues Egypt, Set is a dark god with a lust for power and control. He exhibits immense powers such as unleashing solid walls of energy at his foes. He is also capable of taking the form of anyone he wishes by stealing their life energy, turning his victims into mummies in the process. He uses this power to disguise himself as Akhenaten, Tutenkhamen's older brother, to overthrow Luxor. Set resembles a human with a white face and sharp fangs, but as stated he can change his form freely. His "true form" is an abomination; he becomes a huge monster with a pair of spikes that form a circle for a head.
Also a student of Imhotep, Horus later grows evil and bitter of Sphinx's achievements. We learn that after failing to get the Blade of Osiris, Horus joined forces with Set and attempted to kill Sphinx with trickery.
A resident of Luxor, Menes is a traitor and one of Set's closests servants. He displays powerful magical abilities such as performing the mummification ritual and re-animating the dead. He is last seen after Set catches the Mummy and his fate afterwards is unknown.
The Abydosian Aides
The two closest servants of the mayor of Abydos and Set's spies, the pair eagerly sought the Sacred Crown of Abydos. When it was given to Sphinx, they stole it and transformed into a huge winged demon. They were defeated and presumably killed by Sphinx.
The Geb Queen
Gebs are a species of large creatures in Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy. They are described as peaceful until the Geb Queen ruled over them with an iron grip. She resembles a massive insect and serves as a boss to be battled by Sphinx. She guards the Sacred Crown of Uruk under Set's orders.
The Pharaoh of Heliopolis
After Sphinx frees the pharaoh from his stone curse, the corrupted ruler attempts to take his Sacred Crown of Heliopolis. As Sphinx chases him down, he transforms into a scorpion-like monster but is defeated. The pharaoh serves as the penultimate boss of the game.
The game was first announced by THQ on February 19, 2003, under the working title Sphinx. Touted as a PlayStation 2 and GameCube title, it would ultimately launch on the Xbox, as well. Eurocom developed the game over a period of roughly three years, including time spent creating the title's original engine. The design for Sphinx himself changed greatly over time, from a young child of about six to his final form as a teenager. In creating the two differing styles of gameplay, the developers took inspiration from exploration and puzzle-solving in past games, such as the Zelda series. During development, the role of the cursed mummy, Tutankhamen, increased in prominence. Early Sphinx featured a 70/30 split of play time between Sphinx and Tutankhamen, which was adjusted in the latter's favor in response to positive reactions to the character. In line with this shift, the game's title was changed from the earlier Sphinx and the Shadow of Set shortly before release. This development title had still been in use when THQ began providing demo discs for the PlayStation 2 version online.
It was originally intended that Sphinx transform into a mythical sphinx—a winged lion with human features. Flying sequences were to comprise around 30% of Sphinx (the character)'s gameplay. These sections were triggered by reaching specific points in the game, one such area involving "flying through [...] tubes trying to get to a fortress, with many different obstacles on the way". A pre-production concept animation showcased the sphinx idea, and character designer Juan Solís produced models for the character's sphinx form, which ultimately went unused. Early media about the game also indicated that several further regions of Egypt would be included. IGN described the game's "seven worlds", including "the jungles, swamps and lakes of Sakkara" and "the underwater city of Akaria," neither of which featured in the final game. In pre-release interviews, THQ's Rob Loftus stated that Eurocom would be taking "full advantage" of the GameCube hardware, which would be evident in that version's improved lighting features.
Using one of the save points in the Mummy section immediately following a particular cut scene can cause a door to be permanently sealed if play is not immediately continued. This traps the player, preventing further progress with no way to reverse the action. This forces the player to start over from a point fairly deep into the game.
THQ Wireless published a Java version for mobile phones, developed by Humagade. As in the console game, players alternately control Sphinx and Tutankhamen (the mummy) in action and puzzle-solving scenarios, respectively. Players seek out Tutankhamen's preserved organs in order to restore him to life while tracking the evil Set through the city of Uruk.
Sphinx was well received by much of the gaming community. IGN gave the game 8.5/10, calling it a "fun, challenging action-adventure serv[ing] up a semi-non-linear experience complete with huge worlds to explore, difficult and satisfying puzzles, entertaining weapon and item advancements". It was praised by critics for its unique characters and compelling storyline. The game's graphics were also highly praised for their quality. However, some criticism was directed at the lack of voice-acting to coincide with the text-heavy dialogue. Commercially, the game performed poorly, with "sluggish sales [...] across all systems".
The mobile release received a more muted response, though still generally positive, with a 70.50% aggregate score on GameRankings. IGN's Levi Buchanan admired the game's graphics, but criticised the "freaky" isometric controls for not being "as user-friendly as they need to be", overall feeling the game was "a pretty good purchase for fans of the original console game or in the hunt for an adventure title." Reviewing the title for GameSpot, Carrie Gouskos enjoyed the game's adherence to the style of the console title, saying it did "a good job of maintaining the look and personality of the franchise", but called the controls "uncomfortable", the sound "not that interesting" and said the gameplay "doesn't have great longevity", overall finding it frustrating for anyone but players seeking "a simple little action game [or] particular fan[s] of the series".
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- Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy fan site
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