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Riddle of the Sphinx Reviews

Press reviews of Riddle of the Sphinx

Riddle of the Sphinx™ review by: Rumplestiltskin on

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March 2001.
Riddle of the Sphinx™ review by: Rumplestiltskin on

Ever wanted to take a trip to Egypt but couldn’t afford it? Well, here’s a game that will let you take one at an affordable price along with an experience that you will never forget. You’ll feel like Indiana Jones as you search the Great Pyramid in search of clues to help you solve the answer to a riddle that everyone has been dying to know. One that will change the way we understand Egyptians forever as we know it!

Riddle of the Sphinx, (or ROTS for short) is a standard adventure game similar to Myst but in complete 1st person format. Now, for all you ‘anti-MYSTites’ out there let me tell you that despite your possible dislike of Myst, Riddle of the Sphinx is a game that has much more exploring and interesting stuff to do than what Myst generally offered. The environments are what pull you through the enticing world of ROTS and the game is rich. So, with that said, I have to add that in playing this game it felt very much like I was Indiana Jones trying to solve a riddle and exploring Egypt. It’s the kind of thing Indiana Jones would do. And because the story doesn’t tell you who your character is it’s all the better for you to use your imagination…and pretend you’re Indiana Jones! Haven’t I said Indiana Jones enough already? (yes, you have…eesh. -Ed.)

The Graphics do the job well and you really do feel like you’re exploring Egypt and the Sphinx. The environments are believeable–especially considering how much research Jeff and Karen Tobler have put into the game (which you no doubt read in our interview with Jeff here). Yes, that’s right. It’s a game made solely by 2 people which makes the game even more amazing. And as an aside, i know i’d often find myself thinking how some locales were insanely spooky, making me wonder, “How did the Egyptians live like this or even work in similar conditions?”.(well you work here Rumpy, you should know. -Ed.) Actually, there are many things in ROTS that may make you question how the Egyptians have lived and if we’ve ever truly had an accurate impression of them historically. It’s all very fascinating.

Down to the gameplay though. As I said, there’s lots of exploration in the game, and I do mean lots, because this ‘riddle’ isn’t a simple one. The puzzles are all logical. None of that illogical stuff like putting some cat hairs and tape together to form a mustache. The interface is also pretty straightforward.

However, the music is wonderful. It fits the mood of the environments and it’s what you’d expect from visiting exotic locales. The music also stands out on it’s own as a sort of ‘Egyptian New Age’. Does that make any sense? In any case, It’s stuff that is worth making a soundtrack cd out of. So please, next game, have a soundtrack cd included 🙂

Overall, after finishing this game I was left with wanting more. I didn’t want to leave and if you’re an Egyptian buff to any extent, this game is certainly worth a look.

Riddle of the Sphinx™ review by: Brett Todd on

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

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

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

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.