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Posts Tagged ‘THQ

Unearthing Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, Now on PC

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2003 was a fascinating time for video games.  Playstation 2, Gamecube, and Xbox were all capable of running most third party games, the main differentiation being your platform of choice.  As a result, developers were getting more liberal with the offering of releases and it would be easy for certain titles to fall through the cracks, which is exactly what happened to Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy.  Despite being highly praised by enthusiast media, sales barely touched over half a million units across all platforms, which is a failure by any account. Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy was in impressive company – Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time just to name a few.  There were other greats that were criminally underappreciated such as Beyond Good & Evil telling me it was just a rough time to be an unknown franchise. Fast forward to 2017 where thanks to the embrace of HD remasters and the strength of a digital publishing platform, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is being given a new lease on life for the PC.  While I wasn’t sure how the adventure would hold up today, I was impressed with stunning new visuals and an unexpected time capsule of what game design was like two generations ago.

If you’ve never touched it before, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is a linear adventure where two protagonists explore dungeons, one fighting and one puzzle solving.  You’ll probably hear it compared to Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker by both contemporaries and reviews at the time.  I disagree personally and fall back on this title being compared due to incidental parallels and the fact that the two released within six months of one another.  The same thing happened when Prototype and inFamous were released around the same time, so unrelated titles sometimes get lumped together for better or worse. I won’t disregard the similarities: delving into dungeons, solving puzzles, and even the lack of voice acting instead of text, but some fundamentals of this title differ heavily from Nintendo’s franchise. For starters, you get to control the camera with the right stick allowing for a flexibility that was much more cumbersome in Zelda titles. Since the camera is free form there is also the removal of “Z-targeting” or the ability to lock on to a character you fight.  As a result the combat is loose and can be frustrating in the 3D environment, but I was able to easily tolerate it in Sands of Time and the same holds true here.  There are also two protagonists, one that can’t fight and instead solves puzzles (Tutenkhamen aka “The Cursed Mummy”), and one who is more of a fighter than a thinker (the demigod Sphinx).  The separation of gameplay in levels may be divisive, but at least you know what each section of the game expects from you.  Finally this game is linear progression as opposed to the massive open world of Wind Waker.

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 5, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Retrospective: Saint’s Row

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When Grand Theft Auto III hit the Playstation 2 in 2001 it was unlike anything we had seen before.  Sure, the sandbox concept had been dabbled with from time to time and by the name alone it’s clear that Grand Theft Auto had been an established franchise, car stealing and hooker beating included.  It was GTA III that put everything together and re-established the concept of 3D world building and open variety of player choice.  Despite all the freedom of GTA III – not to mention the fact that most of my friends have explored Liberty City and put tens of hours into the game but never played more than the first handful of missions – it’s a very linear game.  Not only that, but as missions progress the game gets quite difficult and the open alive city is a drawback to completing missions.  That’s where Volition and Saint’s Row step in to attempt the next step: an open world where everything you do from running around to side missions affect the main story.

Saint’s Row began life in 2003 as a PS2 game called Bling Bling.  Senior producer Greg Donovan discussed the genesis of the title at GDC 2014 and the difficulty of pitching the game to THQ, which up to this point had not published anything like it.  Donovan and his team envisioned a game about a free world and all the minutia that make up that open world to recreate the gangster lifestyle.  The actual phrasing from the pitch video was, “Bling Bling is a third person action game about style, music, gangs, and guns.  It is the video game equivalent to a rap music video.”  Donovan and developer interviews since haven’t been too forthcoming with how the game eventually became a sandbox open world game, but given that both GTA III and Vice City were already out when Bling Bling began development it almost makes sense that it would take on the same style.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 5, 2016 at 11:00 am