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Riddle of The Sphinx (Atari 2600) artwork

Riddle of The Sphinx (Atari 2600) review

"Your hero starts out moving at a semi-brisk pace, but will soon be ambling at a gait that makes me look nimble after finally stepping away from an all-you-can-eat buffet."

If there was one good thing about the Atari 2600’s “arcade-to-home” games, it was that you knew what to expect -- a blocky and condensed, yet strangely appealing little game. However, the many creations designed solely for that system tended to be a different story, with the player not knowing what to expect.

Take a gander at Imagic’s Riddle of the Sphinx, for example. Somewhat of a primitive adventure game, this was one of my favorite cartridges as a lad. Now, however, the mere thought of playing it is nearly enough to make me puke in my mouth. In my eyes, its weaknesses have been magnified to where they completely overwhelm its positives.

Sadly, Riddle has a few cool things going for it, especially when you play on the toughest difficulty level. Your quest is to travel upwards along a vertically-scrolling screen until reaching the temple that is your final destination and make the proper offering to it. Doing so wins the game. A seemingly simple task, this mission is made amazingly complex (by Atari 2600 standards) by playing on the hardest level.

Here, you have to make offerings at virtually every building you come across, with many of these goods very difficult to find. You might have to dig for them, search near an oasis or barter with nomads AND if you’re unable to find even one offering, you’ll be unable to progress. Add in that bandits and nomads are fond of swiping these important items and you have yourself a pretty tight game with little room for error. Sure, you can backtrack to reobtain lost items, but that is pretty time-consuming, as your character doesn’t exactly move quickly.

And that is Riddle’s biggest flaw and the reason I no longer can stomach playing it. Your hero starts out moving at a semi-brisk pace, but will soon be ambling at a gait that makes me look nimble after finally stepping away from an all-you-can-eat buffet. If he takes a hit from wandering bandits, scorpions or evil gods, he slows down. If you don’t direct him to every single oasis you come across, he’ll get thirsty and move even more slowly. Both these situations can be remedied in various ways, but it doesn’t take much time to lose patience with watching your character walk at a pace that makes one wonder if he actually is in motion.

Riddle is one of those games that simply hasn’t aged well, unlike many of those venerable arcade games of the Atari 2600 era. Today, hordes of games have taken the adventure genre and greatly expanded on it, while providing much faster action in the process. While crawling across a sparsely-decorated desert heaving rocks at zig-zagging bandits enthralled me back when I didn’t know any better, I can safely say that now, this game just doesn’t contain anything capable of holding my interest.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (December 23, 2005)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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