The Sphinx Jinx, apart from being quite a clever use of assonance, is the sequel to Total Eclipse, and the fourth game to use the revolutionary Freescape (TM) system. Incentive conceived it, and now Incentive is using it (a lot). previously, these games had been confined to the vacuous void (space to you), the moon and other nearby related satellites. Then came Total Eclipse which brought the system down to Earth, with an Egyptian setting, an early 20th century time zone and lots of sandy yellow graphics.
Just in case you didn't know, Freescape is the graphics system whereby the gamesplayer has complete access to an entire world. He can go anywhere, look anywhere, and publicly demonstrate against Thatcherite autocracy anywhere - complete freedom. He sees a 3D perspective world, with buildings and objects depicted by geometric blocks, shaded to give a sense of solidity and realism. As he wanders through this Pytogorian landscape, buildings slide closer, walkways flitter past overhead, and doorways leading to interior locations open up.
The story so far... An ancient but temperamental High Priest of Re (the Sun God) got a bit narked with his people when they started falling out with religion, missing church on Sundays to play golf. So he erected (steady!) a huge great pyramid in reverence to his God, and built an exclusive little shrine at its apex. The pyramid was magically charged so that, if anything blocked the sun's rays during the day, it would be destroyed. Unfortunately, today is 26 October 1930, and a total eclipse of the sun by the moon is due in about two hours, which means that the moon will be destroyed and the earth peppered with large bits of it.
All that happened in Total Eclipse I, but now in The Sphinx Jinx, to exorcise the curse completely, you have to search for the 12 pieces of the sphinx, which have been hidden in the underground passages beneath the pyramid.
This game is not as much of an arcade adventure as I had expected. There are no objects to be collected and manipulated and most puzzles come when you try and suss out the complicated layout of the chamber. The rooms are puzzles in themselves, requiring some acute observation and agility. Gold bars lie here and there if you fancy a quick bout of sacrilegious pillaging.
The graphics aren't detailed but the sphinx, made up of 12 shapes is very good and very big. All the shapes are amazingly versatile and manage to rotate in three dimensions without flaw, although some rooms required a bit of imagination before I could suss out what they were meant to look like. Gameplay is quite slow (not surprising considering all the meaty algorithms that are being pounded through the Speccy's tiny brain) but when the pyramid is fraught with traps and long falls you're glad for the lack of speed.
This is the easiest Freescape game to get into so far, because most of the action is concentrated in inside locations rather than across a massive roving landscape. The Sphinx Jinx comes in a double pack with Total Eclipse I, that equals at least three or four long weekends worth on one tape. Though at present it's only available through the Home Computer Club, it'll be put on general release soon. Excellent value.
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