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

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.

Karen Tobler

Author Karen Tobler

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