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Low-Spoiler Guide to Riddle of the Sphinx

I'm going to level with you here: I thought this game sucked. This is the first game I've played in seven years that I honestly thought sucked. If you really like this game, you probably want to go somewhere else so you don't have your enjoyment diminished by my distaste for it. If you haven't bought it yet and were wondering if you should, then I refer you to my Riddle of the Sphinx Review where I detail what the problems I had with this game were so you can determine if you're likely to be as aggravated by them as I was.

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If you already have the game and are starting to get frustrated with it, on the other hand, read on. I bought this game (at discount, thankfully) because my son likes both Egyptology and playing Myst-type games with me, and I had to see it through to the bitter end because he's stubborn that way. So as long as I'm here anyway, here is my quick and dirty guide to avoiding the most annoying parts of the game. As with the rest of my low-spoiler walkthroughs, I have not given away the solutions to any puzzles here, nor revealed anything worth discovering for yourself. If you are looking for the solution to a particular puzzle, I recommend the UHS site--due to the way their pages are set up you can only see one hint at a time, so you can get the answer to one pesky puzzle without ruining all the others for yourself.

Now, on with the game!

Riddle of the Sphinx Hints and Tips
Riddle of the Sphinx Walkthrough
Riddle of the Sphinx Cheats and Links
The Backseat Game Designer: Riddle of the Sphinx Critique

Riddle of the Sphinx Hints and Tips

This is a very linear game. Other than becoming confused by red herrings and searching about fruitlessly for further information about them that doesn't exist, there's nothing you're in any danger of missing during the course of playing Riddle of the Sphinx--no little detours you can take, no extra details you might miss if you did only what was strictly necessary to complete the game, none of the things my low-spoiler walkthroughs are usually good at helping you tease out of a game. I do have a walkthrough up now which focuses on compensating for Riddle of the Sphinx's rocky gameplay--telling you what you're supposed to be accomplishing next when the game neglects to, helping you minimize frustrations with the poorly functioning inventory and navigation systems by telling you which pointless empty areas not to waste your time with, which puzzles are going to be unsolveable no matter what you do until later in the game, and which items you're going to need again even though you can't put it in your inventory for some godforsaken reason so you'd better make a printout of it now to save yourself the hassle of trekking all the way back for it later on. That kind of thing. If you're finding yourself looking for a hint, not because a puzzle is too tough, but because you just have no idea which of the 850 open locations is the one location you're going to be able to advance the plot in next and your stomach turns at the thought of going back to check whether any new objects have appeared in each and every one of them, then check out the Non-Boring Guide to RotS. No puzzles were spoiled in the making of this walkthrough. Honestly, why would anyone keep wrestling with the clunky interface of this game if they didn't want to figure out at least some of the Egyptian puzzles?

Besides the walkthrough, here are my general gameplay suggestions for minimizing tedious and aggravating elements of the game to get the maximum amount of fun out of it:

Plot: Try not to worry about it or even think about it much. You will not learn anything plot-related until the ending monologue of the game, and everything that seems like it might be a plot element (Gil's curse, the scheming of his colleagues, the unnatural disasters hinted at in the prologue, the existence of Atlantis, etc.) will turn out to be either unimportant, lies, or not dealt with until the sequel. Your goal in this game is, curiously enough, never stated. This must have been an oversight by the writers, since Gil's monologue assumes you knew where you were going all along and just didn't know what you'd find there. The plot is this: Gil wants you to figure out how to open the circular door inside the Sphinx, and the means to do that are hidden in the secret crypts inside the Pyramid, so he wants you to go in and find them. That's all you really need to know.

Bugs: Riddle of the Sphinx locks up a lot, particularly early on (the tape recorder is especially nasty for this, but I also had problems with the star map pots and the sliding boat model.) There's a game patch available at the official RotS game site, but just alt-tabbing out of the window and back in usually worked for me. More problematic (and certainly the oddest problem I've encountered recently in a game) was disk-swapping. Every time you need to swap disks (going back and forth between the Queen's Crypt and the main pyramid site), the game will eject your CD drive and tell you to put in the other disk. If you don't do this correctly (or if you don't find the other disk quickly enough and your computer closes the CD drive back up automatically, or if you have both a CD drive and a DVD drive and the program tries to read your kid's Dora the Explorer DVD instead of the game CD), it will abruptly exit the game without giving you the option to save. So always save the game before entering or exiting the tunnel between the Queen's Crypt and the Queen's Chamber (the one with the Cheoptronic controls in it). Other than those two problems, this wasn't a terribly buggy game.

Movement: The navigation system in Riddle of the Sphinx is definitely the biggest impediment to playing or enjoying it, and there's no easy way around it. It may help to be aware of the three biggest frustrations before going in: First, that only a few locations (maybe one in twenty-five) allow you to pan around freely and view the area from more than one angle, and that these special locations (called "VR areas" in the game manual) have a completely different set of controls. There is a "VR area" in the center of Gil's tent, so practice with that for a while to get the hang of it. It's very unintuitive to keep switching back and forth between controls, but the VR areas are the only places you can reliably look to your left or right as you move, so you'll need to take advantage of them. Second, clicking to the left or right of a screen does NOT turn you 90 degrees left or right as it does in most games; in nearly every case it turns you around to face the direction you just came from. (There is no special "turn around" cursor at the bottom of the screen.) If you are expected or permitted to look to either side, there is usually a "VR area" to let you do this. Unfortunately, there are a few exceptions where you will have to turn to the left or right even though there is no VR area (this is particularly true, and particularly annoying, in a large maze near the end of the game), so you can't just get away with ignoring the left and right arrows, but just knowing from the outset that they usually turn you around 180 degrees can save you some frustration and extra wandering. And third, the game will sometimes automatically change your direction for you when you reach a corner or a dead end. This can really disorient you if you're not expecting it, so keep your eye out. Finally, if you're backtracking past terrain you've already covered, it's sometimes possible to "warp" all the way back to the next non-useless location by clicking on the especially fat arrow that will sometimes appear. This arrow will only appear in one special place on your screen, though, and only at some locations, not others. If you're at the far end of some path, it's worth mousing quickly over the screen to see if there's a fat arrow somewhere that can save you the time of slogging back.

Inventory: This is the second-biggest hassle in Riddle of the Sphinx. There is no way to deposit an object directly into your inventory. Once you pick it up (you'll see it spinning on the screen, to show that you have it,) press space bar, drag it over to the picture of the backpack, and drop it there. It will then show up in one of the inventory boxes (you can't drag it directly to a box). To use it again, you have to scroll to the object's inventory box, click on it, and press space bar again to get back to the screen. NEVER move around with an object still in your hand if you can help it--it will disappear and go back to wherever you originally found it if you click it on another object that's able to be picked up. Yes, if you're in the bowels of the Queen's Crypt and try to click an amulet on a stone tablet, you will pick up the tablet and the amulet will teleport back inside its box in the King's Crypt. Save frequently and never try to use one object on another. Also, there are several important objects you just can't put into your inventory, for no good reason (Gil's wallet, the starmaps, and the book of matches are the most egregious examples). You can use my walkthrough to help you distinguish these important but unpocketable clues from the hundreds of useless objects scattered around the game. There are also some useless items that you can pick up, so you will end the game with some things in your inventory that you've never used. They are just red herrings; you haven't done anything wrong, or missed anything in the game.

Interface: Your only method of interacting with the gameworld is by clicking on it. There will usually be no indication as to whether an object is clickable or not; you'll just have to use trial and error (which is frustrating since if you try to click something non-clickable, the game usually assumes you're trying to step forwards or backwards). On some occasions you will need to click something and then pull it in the appropriate direction, but this was usually intuitive (pulling a lever down and so forth).

Time Management: Time does not pass in Riddle of the Sphinx, and you can take as long as you like exploring any part of it you choose in any order you want to. There are two puzzles that cannot be solved during the day, so you'll have to go to sleep to trigger a shift to nighttime. The sun will never set without proactive action from you.

Problem Spots: Riddle of the Sphinx is not subtitled and one puzzle solution (as well as an important clue to another) can only be obtained through audio clues, so this is not a game for the hard of hearing or people who can't play with the sound on. There are no dead ends and you can't paint yourself into any corners. There are a couple of realtime sequences in Riddle of the Sphinx, but they are fairly easy (if not for the wretched navigation system, they'd be trivial), and can be repeated as often as necessary until they are solved. It is possible to die in this game; always save before touching stone tablets or approaching snakes. (It's not a bad idea to save before approaching crocodiles, either, but as far as I know they'll never actually kill you.)

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