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Riddle of the Sphinx™ review by: Brett Todd on GamesDomain.com

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March 3, 2001.
Riddle of the Sphinx™ review by: Brett Todd on GamesDomain.com

Veterans of Myst and its countless clones will be right at home with the game’s first-person interface. Movement is linear, taking you along specific paths to locations where some aspect of the evolving mystery will undoubtedly be revealed. Entering these locales—which are typically rooms, tents, tomb passages and chambers, and so on—triggers the game’s VR Mode. This freezes you in one central position and allows 360-degree pivoting to look at and interact with different items in the immediate vicinity. Different mouse cursors inform you of what’s possible. You’ll be able to pick up objects, flip through books, grab and turn handles, play audio cassettes, and generally be able to act wholly like an erstwhile archaeologist in a B movie.

VR Mode depicts some of the most enigmatic aspects of Egyptian history. All manner of New Agey rumors and theories are embraced by the developers at Omni Creative Group Int’l (which seems to mainly be the providence of the husband and wife design team of Jeffrey and Karen Tobler). So if you’re against the sort of speculative (okay, perhaps “outlandish” might be a better word) research written up by the likes of 21st Century Von Danikens, like Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval, you’ll find the subject matter here either laughable or just stupid. You’ll discover that the Great Pyramid has hidden chambers and shrines, that the Sphinx isn’t what historical researchers claim it to be, and even that certain Biblical stories have more than a ring of truth to them.

Yeah, that’s all a little goofy. But the Toblers manage to pull it off, presumably because they’re either convinced in the veracity of these wild notions or are remarkable con artists (insert your Graham Hancock joke here). At least I bought almost every minute of it, and I’m a fairly serious student of ancient history with the degrees and the passport stamps to prove it. I’ve visited Giza myself, spent many sweaty minutes inside the Great Pyramid marveling at the Grand Gallery, and I still marveled at the authenticity of the scenery. The Toblers do a good job of transporting the gamer to Egypt, even with the inherent graphical limitations of the QuickTime format and annoying CD access skipping (the installation settings don’t allow a full install). That you can lose yourself in what are often grainy, clunky-moving visuals is a tribute to their understanding and love of the setting, and the adventure game genre.

Even the puzzles are generally handled properly. Proper exploration and a lick of common sense will let you solve any conundrum in the game, which is something that can’t be said for the majority of adventure titles out there. Nothing here requires the all-too common flights of fancy that send even the most astute gamers scrambling for walkthrough sites on the web.

Although it’s unlikely that I’ll ever get into adventure games again, I enjoyed Riddle of the Sphinx as a nice change of pace from my modern current faves No One Lives Forever and Baldur’s Gate II. It’s good to see that Dreamcatcher has so admirably picked up the slack left when Sierra abandoned the format for publishing Tribes 2 screenshots on the web and LucasArts decided to devote its attention to selling us on the questionable merits of Episode One. There are a lot of casual gamers out there who want to play an adventure as a form of escapist entertainment akin to reading mystery novels. Hell, there are probably enough fans of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series of Egyptological page-turners to make a game like this one break even.

Perhaps that stops short of a glowing recommendation, so I’ll add that I never once dreamed about being somewhere else while I was wandering through the game’s ancient tombs. If you enjoy adventures, or just want to relive games past, give Riddle of the Sphinx a shot.

Riddle of the Sphinx™ review by: Kirk Hiner on AppleLinks.com

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February 22, 2001.
Riddle of the Sphinx™ review by: Kirk Hiner on AppleLinks.com

I think the good folks at Omni Creative Group must’ve been watching the same PBS specials as I. But unlike me, when no answers were provided, they come up with some of their own. Then they decided to share them with us in Riddle of the Sphinx (ROTS). Five years in the making, ROTS is certainly a labor love, having been put together almost solely by Jeffrey and Karen Tobler. They even designed their website for cryin-out-loud. Would that I had the talent (and the five years) to put together a project like this…

The hard part of Riddle of the Sphinx isn’t solving the puzzles, you see, it’s finding them. There really aren’t too many directions you can go in the game, but the exploration still seems to take forever. It got to the point that every time there was a fork in the road, I’d save the game. This way, if I wasn’t yet equipped to solve the puzzle at the end, I wouldn’t have to return all the way to the fork to take the proper path. I mean, Lara Croft didn’t have to use a helicopter to get from the Sphinx to the Pyramids, so why should I?

But again, I must point out this game had to be made this way. This was a conscious decision on the part of the developers to make the game as realistic as possible, and that means accurate proportions of the “known” chambers within the Pyramids. And it’s not like the Tobler’s weren’t sympathetic to your plight. The traditional adventure game interface does include the traditional warp option whereby gamers can immediately zip to certain areas that have already been explored.

And besides, you don’t want to get there too quickly or you may miss the strikingly rendered environments. You know designers are dedicated when they bother to make even blank, barren rooms and corridors look as realistic as those with all the “booty.” Perhaps that’s one of the reasons the puzzles were so hard to find in this game…they didn’t stand out because everything looked great. Even the virtual screens (a Dreamcatcher staple, it seems, in which some areas become 360 degree virtual panoramas instead of the traditional “click and move” HyperCard like interface) kept some of their luster while spinning and settled back into the detailed renderings no matter where I stopped the pan.

As for the riddle itself, unlike all the history books and TV specials, this game does provide a payoff. This is important, because after fumbling through dozens of puzzles and even dying a few times (“I grabbed the wrong tablet again!?”), I certainly deserved it. The Tobler’s answer to the riddle is along the lines of what we wish those documentary scientists would find (or…perhaps not; sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone), and hey, they even left it open for a sequel…albeit in an annoyingly Myst-like fashion.

But aside from that, Riddle of the Sphinx is very well done, and I tip my adventure hat to Jeff and Karen Tobler (as well as the rest of their crew). The pacing is slow and the lack of stimuli is sometimes maddening, but it seems to me that this is how real excavations are as well. The adventuring gaming crowd is proud but small, and ROTS probably won’t win over any new converts. But those who are already here with us should agree that the five year wait was worth it.

Riddle of the Sphinx™ review by: Frank Nicodem on UHS-HINTS.com

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February, 2001.
Riddle of the Sphinx™ review by: Frank Nicodem on UHS-HINTS.com

From the very outset, it is clear that Riddle of the Sphinx is not just “another adventure game” but is truly in a class with some of the most respected adventure games. Deploying stunning graphics, a solid story line, incredibly non-linear gameplay, and fascinating puzzles, ROTS (as even its developers refer to it) is a “Rivenesque” game that takes place in the present but deals heavily with the past.

The first thing one notices when playing ROTS are the superb graphics. The 3-D rendered scenes are so stunning that it is easy to get distracted from the gameplay itself and simply traverse the game for the sake of the visual pleasure.

The background music is done quite well and provides an added ambiance to the gameplay. Interestingly enough, the game has been designed and developed almost exclusively by a husband-and-wife team, who were responsible for the majority of the graphics design, the animations, the sound, the production, and virtually every other facet of the creation of ROTS.

The puzzles contained within the game are all readily solvable, although not necessarily simple. There are enough puzzles to hold the player’s interest, and all fit well within the context of the game. None are gratuitous, nor do they interrupt the flow of the game. And once solved, there are none that leave the users scratching their heads, wondering what that puzzle was all about. The puzzles are typically “local” — that is, with minor exceptions, everything needed to solve most puzzles will be found in the immediate area and not require extensive navigation through the game. (There are, of course, some puzzles on a grander scheme — such as the ultimate riddle of the Sphinx itself — which require traversing much more of the game before a solution is possible.) And at one point in the game, there is one of the best mazes I’ve ever played — a circular maze that is almost impossible to map, and which requires persistence, intuition, and a little bit of luck to navigate.

The words that most come to mind when thinking about ROTS are “anticipation” and “satisfaction”. Anticipation, in that every time I went back to the game to continue playing, I knew that there would be something new, and totally enjoyable, to hold my interest; and satisfaction, because in every case, my anticipation was met. At no time did I feel disappointed in the gameplay, nor did I feel that I would have changed anything, had I the opportunity.

Another nice “perk” to the user who has enjoyed playing ROTS can be found in the end game, where a final cut scene hints strongly at a sequel. And I, for one, will be anxiously awaiting any such sequel. All in all, this is easily one of the best adventure games I have ever played.

Riddle of the Sphinx™ review by: Dave Fisher on GoneGold.com

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February, 2001.
Riddle of the Sphinx™ review by: Dave Fisher on GoneGold.com

The Toblers’ creative efforts extend to voice-overs (Sir Geoffreys by Jeff is particularly effective), and nicely done musical themes.  The atmosphere of mystery and forebodingness is embellished by a fine and original score.  Ambient sounds are present, though minimal, with some occasional stuttering (the patch helps).  There are no conversations, so voice-acting is at a minimum.  We’ll give this area a 75.

My favorite new TV series is C.S.I. – Crime Scene Investigators.  The heart of the show’s premise is that, with sufficient patience, observational skill, accumulated data and deductive reasoning, the crime can be solved – the riddle explained.  This Sphinxian Riddle is also solvable, with attention to detail, patience, some trial and error.  This is a “puzzle-type” adventure game (cf. Myst), as opposed to one in which clues are secured from conversations (cf. Longest Journey).  Fortunately, the puzzles generally make sense, are appropriate to your surroundings and the dig site’s history, and often lead you to an “of course, that’s it!” exclamation after some cognitive reflection.  As an example, and without giving too much away, early in the game you find a blank piece of paper in Sir Geoffreys’ tent which can reveal a message when lit by a lantern, but only at night (!), requiring you to have patience after coming across this clue in the daytime.

The “save anytime” feature is needed, and should be used at clear game breaks and/or after an hour or so of play.  You can die in this game, and the first occasion of my demise came as quite a shock, especially since I ended up having to replay a considerable portion.

From the use of a neat robotic probe, to the beauty of the Lost Temple of Ra, and the challenging pleasure of the Cobra Maze, Riddle of the Sphinx has an “adventure gameplay enjoyability rating” of 85, second only to Traitors Gate, from the puzzle-adventure perspective of this player/reviewer.

The Toblers have lovingly invested 5 years of their lives creating a story and game deeply rooted, often in accurate detail, in their fascination with the mysteries of ancient Egypt.  The sights uncovered often assume the level of “edutainment” (a good thing).  It’s hard to know how to best rate the result of this effort.  Many of DreamCatcher’s publications, including Riddle, are like the equivalent of independently produced, lower-budget, but still quality film titles one may find featured at the Sundance Film Festival, rather than the multi-million top five at Hollywood Academy Awards time.  Looking at Riddle of the Sphinx in that context, I’m more forgiving than if I were to compare it to the likes of Escape From Monkey Island or No One Lives Forever.

As contrasted with some of today’s graphically rich and gameplay hollow PC games, Riddle of the Sphinx provides many hours of intriguing and suspenseful Pyramidic exploration, solving sensible puzzles, towards a satisfying conclusion.  Unfortunately, the graphics and game engine are dated, limited, and most disappointing given, even, the state of current traditional Adventure games – e.g.. Traitors Gate and Dracula: Resurrection, let alone The Longest Journey.  Still, I enjoyed my quest, only occasionally needing “hints and tips,” and found myself interested in further reading about the Sphinx and related topics (good links at the game Homepage). How many games elicit that kind of response?  For $20 retail, I believe you (and your family!) may also find that “the reward of your discipline will be great.”

Riddle of the Sphinx™ review by: Bob Mandel on Avault.com

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January 18, 2001.
Riddle of the Sphinx™ review by: Bob Mandel on Avault.com

Riddle of the Sphinx is more concerned with historical authenticity than any other adventure title I have seen. The developers reveal an abiding passion for the most intricate aspects of ancient Egyptian monuments and temples. They also replicate in exacting detail, using both ancient documents and recent materials, the Sphinx and the known chambers and passageways inside the Great Pyramid. It is easy to see that photographs of the actual locations played a key role in this re-creation. You may explore the Sphinx without restriction as you never could in real life, so in many ways, playing this game is better than buying a plane ticket and traveling to the actual location itself. As you wander through the narrow and dark passageways and visit rooms chock full of ancient artifacts, you can almost sense the musty smell and dank air sure to be present in such long-sealed environments.

As you progress, there are over 30 different settings to explore. From the Giza Plateau, to the Great Pyramid of Cheops, to the hidden chambers of the Sphinx, the journey is always fascinating. If you are a fan of bizarre artifacts, secret chambers, narrow pathways and winding labyrinths, then Riddle of the Sphinx is tailored to feed your interests. All told, there are reportedly over 50 million square feet of 3D rendered settings in this game. Most of the exploration takes place in the Great Pyramid itself. While there is nowhere near the diversity of physical settings that you find in many other adventures, what is here is highly intriguing.

The puzzles are linked to the story and seamlessly integrated into the gameplay. You must survive ingenious deathtraps and solve arcane puzzles designed to deter tomb robbers over the centuries. The emphasis is on logic, so, most often, if you think carefully about the solution to an enigma, you can deduce it. What is needed more than anything else to solve the puzzles is vigilant and careful exploration of everything around you. Riddle of the Sphinx offers cerebral puzzle solving at its best, where in order to open a chest with a combination lock, you do not just discover a hidden code, but rather have to combine subtle clues from a piece of paper hidden behind an identity card in a wallet, evidence from three audio tapes, and select passages in the Bible. In the end, solving these puzzles proves to be a very fulfilling experience.

One of the most appealing aspects of Riddle of the Sphinx is its nonlinear gameplay. There are so many places to go, and rarely do you have to follow a fixed sequence of steps to get somewhere. The openendedness takes a bit of getting used to because many past adventure offerings have conditioned the public to feel guilty about going off in different directions unless there is a cumulative payoff. But after awhile, you realize that this quality adds to the sense of realism; you honestly feel as if you are discovering and sifting through clues in the same way a research scientist would. As your backpack is filled with highly unusual items, not all of which are critical for success, you might realize that the joy of this game is not just in getting the answer to the riddle, but in having fun digging around along the way.

Riddle of the Sphinx contains many hours of absorbing gameplay. This is one of those titles where it is better to not hurry or you might miss something important or enjoyable, since there’s a richness and depth here that’s far beyond most computerized adventures. Indeed, rival products look superficial by comparison, as Dreamcatcher’s release possesses a unique combination of credibility, excitement, education and mental challenge. I felt a real sense of awe as I traversed cryptic passages and analyzed unusual items, and looking around in dark areas made me break out in a sweat. When I at long last solved the riddle, the discovery was well worth the wait.

Riddle of the Sphinx contains an original and fully orchestrated soundtrack composed by the Toblers. The two must be truly multitalented, as the music is one of the best scores I have ever heard in a computer game. The Egyptian-inspired score fits the mood perfectly, adds considerably to the tension, and changes appropriately as you enter different environments.

Overall:4 Stars Something about Riddle of the Sphinx draws you in from the moment you begin. This first-person adventure shows just what two people can do with a clear and novel vision. The combination of an unsolved mystery, great music, a desolate ancient landscape and captivating underground chambers creates a truly immersive experience. Since this title has no violence, strong language or suggestive material, it can appeal to anyone with a special zest for brain teasers. I can see why stories of the great pharaohs, the pyramids and the Sphinx have been a source of ardent fascination over the centuries. I was not an ancient Egypt buff before playing this game, and yet my curiosity has been stimulated in an amazing way. Anyone eager to unravel enigmas of the distant past should join in this incredibly rewarding quest.

Riddle of the Sphinx™ review by: Michael Lafferty on Game Zone Online.com

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January 11, 2001
Riddle of the Sphinx™ review by: Michael Lafferty on Game Zone Online.com

Riddle of the Sphinx is a lush game that is fairly immersive. You must explore the world, and though some of the pathways are predetermined, advancing through to them is not. Each step taken is obtained only through using your mind to unlock the carefully hidden clues.

This is an engaging program, very well rendered and quite thought provoking. You will have to spend a bit of time (perhaps 10-15 minutes) stumbling around with the control interface while in-game before you get the hang of it. These are mouse-driven controls, but they only work to a certain extent. You may go to sleep and awaken at night, but you will not be able to do much, other than – say – light that candle and examine the paper. Other elements within the room are not accessible. The challenge in this game comes in combining elements and working through puzzles.

And that is an enjoyable task.

The sound consists mostly of the ambient noises one would expect, as well as voice characterizations and a nice score of background music. All in all, the audio track supports the video very well.

Riddle of the Sphinx is rated for Everyone, and is the type of game that will intrigue and delight. It is suitable for play by parents and their children, and while some of the puzzles may be beyond the ken of younger children, they will enjoy the challenge, the graphics and watching their parents’ brows furrow in concentration.

This program falls nicely in the quality line of products DreamCatcher has released, which includes titles such as Beyond Atlantis and The New Adventures of the Time Machine.

First Riddle of the Sphinx™ beta-release demo is reviewed on The Edge.com

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July 16, 1999
First Riddle of the Sphinx™ beta-release demo is reviewed on The Edge.com

Riddle of the Sphinx: NEWS JUST IN – July 13 1999

“We at The Edge are proud to announce that, as far as we know, we are lucky enough to be the only people this side of the US to take a peek and a play at the game – we were sent the very latest (and, we are told, the last) Beta version of the game this morning from the developers themselves.

“Whilst not allowed to distribute or sent the software anywhere, let me tell you personally that Riddle of the Sphinx looks like being THE game of 1999, adventure game or not. The atmosphere it generates, with intense egyptian-poowered music, rapid animation as you move swiftly from one location to another, astoundingly accurate visuals plus attention to detail, all makes the title truely an astonishing prospect. Not since the likes of Riven have we seen such true devotion to perfection.

“The demo gives you four options. Two different locations allowed you access to the control system – the tent and the secret passageways. Both were outstanding. Think of all the things that made Myst and Riven great, atmosphere, sound, great visuals, and multiply this by infinite. From what The Edge has seen, ROTS is certainly something to rave about. For example, the two playable sections have so much scope for depth and exploration, that they make the more intense sections of Myst look almost dull.

“The attention to detail is superb. In the tent section you are able to select any of three cassettes, insert it in the tape recorder, rewind, or fast forward, as in a normal device, reset the counter, record, turn the volume up and down, eject, etc etc. These might be small points on their own, but collectively you begin to see the wealth of hypnotic detail within the game. In the same section, clicking on the bed causes you to sleep – you hear yawning, and the screen gradually closes til darkness ensues. Another click on the mouse and the reverse, til you awaken and its dark again. You can light your match, blow it out, get a key, and test it in numerous locks. You can do just about anything you’d imagine in a normal tent!

“Okay, so perhaps we seem to be raving about nothing! Perhaps. But consider that this is merely a thousanth of the entire game and you start to see its depth. In the secret passageway section you must negotiate through a maze of…you guessed it…passageways, til you reach a box with sword. With the combination of almost eerie Egyptian-style music, the hieroglyphic details on all walls, with a faultless interface which actually LETS you go forward and not to the left or right by mistake, this one’s shaping up VERY nicely indeed.

“Dont be surprised if THIS is the game to turn those heads that said, a single year ago, the genre was dead. Riddle of the Spinx promises something TRUELY AWESOME. From what we’ve seen, it looks like it might just deliver too!”

Riddle of the Sphinx™ is previewed on The Edge.com

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June 14, 1999
Riddle of the Sphinx™ is previewed on The Edge.com

[excerpt] ” Following on its tradition of exclusive interviews from behind the gaming scenes, we talked to Jeff Tobler, the man responsible for the up coming knock-out adventure game, that actually looks like it could impress. Riddle of the Sphinx….Jeff….
Q. [The Edge] Riddle of the Spinx. They’re calling it the next big adventure game here in Europe, but we’ve heard precious little about it. What’s the deal?

A. [Jeff Tobler] Yes. We’ve had a tremendous response from the european community, which was truly amazing to Karen and I as it has initially spread from word-of-mouth. Aside from several small articles (some indirectly related) and those gamers who’ve been following our progress from the beginning, ROTS is now beginning to be noticed. (ROTS just recently made its TV debut on Digital Turf on the E! Channel.)

Of course, another reason could be that we had not officially announced ROTS in conjunction with a publisher/distributor. We do anticipate that once ROTS goes “public” it will attract a mass following due to the familiarity of the Sphinx and Great Pyramid.”

Riddle of the Sphinx™ is previewed on AdventureGamer.com

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April 8, 1999
Riddle of the Sphinx™ is previewed on AdventureGamer.com

[excerpt] “My first impression when I first saw a screenshot of the game was simply “Wow, this game looks absolutely stunning!” Omni warns visitors on their website that the pictures are not photos, but actual in-game screenshots. They’ve even copied the Pyramids’ surface features and imperfections precisely, except for the graffiti currently defacing the Great Pyramid that was intentionally omitted (wouldn’t that be going a bit too far?). The real wonder comes when you see the game in action, the graphics flow smoothly and often immerse the player so much, that you actually feel that you are in Egypt.”

Riddle of the Sphinx™ is previewed on Mr. Bill’s Page Of Game Reviews.

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March 20, 1999
Riddle of the Sphinx™ is previewed on Mr. Bill’s Page Of Game Reviews

[excerpt] “This one looks like a winner for all of us die-hard adventure gamers. This superb looking game has been developed by a husband and wife team, Karen and Jeff Tobler. They have taken more than three years to very carefully replicate, in beautiful graphics with photo realistic detail, the Egyptian archeological digs at the Sphinx and Great Pyramid. And they have also incorporated into this game what appears to be a very intriquing story that addresses many of the mysteries and prophecies that abound concerning this area. Solve the “Riddle of the Sphinx” that has been hidden for better than 2500 years. The publisher Omni Creative Group, Int’l is taking preorders and expects to release the game this spring. Be sure to visit these two websites in order to watch the trailer, enjoy the beautiful artwork, and listen to the haunting music.”