Developer: Xtremics Ltd.
Platforms: iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone (Reviewed)
Release Date: January 12, 2012
Price: $1.99 – Available Here
As you can tell, the title of the game that is being reviewed in this article is severely misspelled. Products that have names which are misspelled usually can fit into 3 categories: (1) the product is attempting to be “hip” (2) it is trying to cover up a a bad product by having a “unique” name or (3) it is a good product with simply an awful name. Which category does Sphinks fit into? Find out in the following review.
Sphinks is set in the ancient Egyptian time period. As a servant to the god Ra, god of the sun and creator, it is your job to make sure that he is able to perform his duties. However, something has gone horribly wrong. Ra has lost his powers. The Eye, Flair and Ankh that allow him to do tremendous things have disappeared. But, there is a solution. Finding the Ankh will allow Ra to regain his powers. Unfortunately, Ra broke up and hid this artifact so his enemies would not be able to find it. It is your job to retrieve the Ankh and restore Ra’s powers.
All in all, I suppose the story is ok for an iOS puzzle game. Nevertheless, its not very detailed and it lacks any semblance of order. It certainly explains why the game is set in Egypt, but I think it might have been much better if the developers would have skipped the story entirely and set the game wherever they wanted to, without explanation. The plot in puzzle games is often skimped on, and I see no reason why Xtremics should have even bothered with it, especially considering that there is so little depth to the story in Sphinks.
Sphinks reminds me of a slower version of Bejewled. Rather than filling the entire board up with pieces and tasking you match them, Sphinks initially only lays out about 5 different puzzle pieces on the board. It is your job to match 4 pieces together to make them burst into flames and disappear. Of course, after every turn, more and more pieces show up, and to get to the end of the level you must not allow the board to fill up completely. Pieces can be matched up horizontally, diagonally or vertically. After a level or two has been completed, the requirements change. Now, you must match 5 pieces instead of 4 and the game is substantially harder and so on. Timed pieces also make an appearance, and you must match them up before the clock on them runs out, or they will be set in stone. In addition, a gray overlay will appear on some blocks, indicating where and what the next spawn of blocks will be. Later on, special powers up can be activated that make the game easier for a certain amount of time. In addition, a hint system is also active, although it does not always give away the smartest strategies.
There are no time limits, and the game moves fairly slowly. You can’t queue up your moves, and after every move you have to watch the selected block move to its position. Although the animation for that doesn’t take more than a second, those seconds add up to make the game seem a lot longer than it really is. Making matters worse is that if you fail on any one of the 6 levels, the game takes you back to the first chapter, and you must start all over again. While this gives the game a sense of risk and urgency, it also makes it extremely hard to get anywhere. Playing the same level again after you have already beaten it is boring, especially because all the powerups are taken away until you reach your previous level.
Audio and Visuals
As you would expect, the soundtrack to Sphinks sounds like ancient Egypt theme music, with an emphasis on harps and flutes. When puzzle pieces are matched, or when someting special happens, a nice audio byte usually accompanies it. For example, when the pieces disappear, they burst into flames, crackle and sound like burning papyrus. Each location in the game has its own unique sound effects and soundtrack. This definitely helps to break up some of the monotony.
Graphically, the game is fine. The backgrounds are smooth, and the puzzle pieces are detailed. While the animations are slow, they are very polished and quality looking.
I really wanted to like Sphinks. The graphics were interesting and while the soundtrack was not amazing, it was unique. The ancient setting was unique, the gameplay was different and most of the later levels were hard. The lack of a timer made the game seem more relaxed, although the game was still fairly tough. However, I just couldn’t get past how bored I got when I had to restart, or once I had passed a few levels. New, exciting elements to the gameplay are rarely introduced as the game goes on, and I found myself wanting to play some Bejewled rather than spend anymore time with Sphinks.