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The Non-Boring Riddle of the Sphinx Walkthrough


Riddle of the Sphinx is one of the most linear games I ever played. There are no optional actions that can be taken (unless you count puzzles that aren't technically necessary to solve because it's possible to achieve the same result through trial and error). Unlike the Myst series that inspired it, there are no interesting details to be noticed. There certainly aren't multiple ways to solve any of the puzzles, and there's not much of a plot. There's no chance at all, basically, of your missing anything in this game. If you finish it, you'll have seen everything (probably multiple times). So Riddle of the Sphinx is not a game in need of my "travel guide" series of low-spoiler walkthroughs, which focus mostly on broadening players' enjoyment of games by pointing them towards interesting things they might not have thought of doing themselves.

But there's another kind of walkthrough that might be of great use to you, especially if you're playing with your kids, and that's the a walkthrough that distills just the fun parts out of this sprawling and difficult-to-navigate game. It's my opinion that games shouldn't waste their players' limited time doing things like walking back and forth over and over again, performing useless tasks, trying to read the game designer's mind and guess which puzzle to attempt next, and waiting for something to happen. In the final count we all play games for escapism, not realism; I can wait in line at my own grocery store, and have less than no desire to simulate the experience in a game. So here's my Non-Boring Guide to Riddle of the Sphinx, in which I tell you exactly where all the interesting parts of this game are and in which order to do them to maintain the highest fun-to-tedium ratio. There are no puzzle spoilers in this walkthrough. I tell you where the puzzles are and whether it's possible to solve them yet, but not how to go about it. If you're looking for the solution to a particular Riddle of the Sphinx puzzle, I recommend the excellent UHS site--you can only see one hint at a time there, so you can get the answer to one puzzle without ruining all the others for yourself. My walkthrough, bare-boned by design, is meant to help lead you past those sticking points that are the fault of the interface, bad writing in the game, or just your own uncertainty about what you're supposed to be doing next. Feel free to print it out and use it to help lend some added direction to your travels through Riddle of the Sphinx. If you want even fewer spoilers--you're considering whether or not to buy the game, for example, and just want to know whether there's anything you're going to hate in it--please try my Riddle of the Sphinx Review page to find all the pertinent information in one convenient spoiler-free package.

The Non-Boring Riddle of the Sphinx Walkthrough

In the interest of full disclosure, I really did not like this game. Even the good parts weren't all that good, and the bad parts were awful. But if I'd had a walkthrough like this, I probably would have enjoyed playing a lot more. And jotting notes for a walkthrough was the only thing that kept me awake while my kids clicked in circles around the useless tunnels for fifteen minutes at a stretch, so I might as well share the fruits of my labor with you. :-) General gameplay tips are here and I suggest you skim them if you haven't already, because there are a few unintuitive elements to the interface that can make you have to retrace 15 minutes worth of steps if you aren't careful with them.

By area:

AREAS NOT SPECIALLY LISTED IN THIS WALKTHROUGH

are completely useless; you can't look at anything in them or even turn side to side. Just jog between useful locations as quickly as you can. Sometimes this takes 10-20 mouse clicks, just to add some faux realism to the stroll. After the first time you'll be able to skip the whole rigmarole and shortcut directly to the next point, if you can find the right place on the screen to click to activate this (there's no mouse or keyboard shortcut). You can go back and forth between useful locations as many times as you like, but visiting each of them more than once is really just a waste of time, usually occurring when you've forgotten to write down something important in a previous location.

GIL'S TENT

This area is overflowing with useless objects, useful objects you can't pick up, and useful-looking objects you can't click on. By the time you're done in here, you'll certainly have the hang of the interface (though if you're like me you may also want to throw the CDs out the window).

*The only thing that is useful to put into your inventory from this room is the information scroll contained in the locked chest. (This means you need to figure out how to unlock the chest, which is the main quest in this area.) In fact, the only other things in the room you CAN put in your inventory are the key and the cassette tapes, but it's pointless to bring them with you, so you might as well leave them behind.
*You do need some of the information from this room, namely Gil's university ID number and the star charts. You can't bring Gil's wallet or the star charts with you, so you'll need to copy this information down on paper. You don't technically know that you'll need Gil's university ID number yet, but if you don't write it down now you'll have to backtrack from a long way away just to get it, which is boring and pointless; save yourself the trip.
*It's a nice orientation to listen to the tape Gil left for you, despite his slow and redundant speech (I *really* wish this tape and the translation one had been letters!) Funny how sure Gil is that if you've come to Giza as per his request and found the cassette he left sitting on top of his desk with your name on it, he must be dead, huh? Don't worry, the plot actually will come back to this eventually.
*There's an apparently blank paper in this room that can be read using other objects in the area; it just provides a clue to something you'd surely figure out anyway, but it may be fun.
*Clicking on the bed will cause you to fall asleep and toggle the game between night and day. This has no effect on anything other than to change whether it is dark or light in the room; one task in here can only be done in the dark, and everything else requires light, so you'll have to sleep twice, but other than that, stay away from the bed. The falling-asleep-and-waking-up-to-a-chorus-of-yawns animation is unskippable once you've initiated it, and it's incredibly annoying. If you find that you can't do anything in this room at all, it's probably because it's dark out. Finish the one task you can accomplish in the dark and go back to sleep.
*If you're having trouble with the combination lock even though you know the combination, you've probably just forgotten to give the lock an extra spin when switching from clockwise back to counterclockwise. Been a while since you had to open your high school gym locker, hasn't it? There are standard combination lock instructions in the supply boxes if you need them. There's really no merit to this extra little hoop to jump through--it should have just been a luggage-style combination lock and saved everyone the pointless micromanagement of dial-turning--but this is not a game that spent any time thinking about intuitive or streamlined play; if that's really going to bother you, get rid of the game now.
*Nothing else in this room is useful. Several objects may be examined more closely and there are several extra things to read, but none of them have any relevance or contain any clues or are interesting in any way at all. If you have the scroll from the locked chest, Gil's ID number, and a picture of the star charts, you can leave.

THE SPHINX

The only useful part of this area is the scaffolding. Everything else is filler. You can enter the sphinx through a tunnel, but there's nothing you'll be able to do in there till the very end of the game. Find a clue on the scaffolding, write it down, and get back in the helicopter.

OUTSIDE THE PYRAMID

The only useful part of this area is the tent (where you can find two useful objects). Everything else is filler.

INSIDE THE PYRAMID

Gil does not actually tell you what your objective is in here, and you will never find out till the ending cutscene. This frustrated my friend enormously, and there's no point to the omission, so I'm going to tell you now, in low-spoiler fashion: you're looking for a way to open the locked door inside the Sphinx. The way to open this door can be found inside the Pyramid.

1) You have to light the pyramid before you can enter, because your character, like all good adventurers of the past twenty years, does not want to be eaten by a grue. The game will not tell you this, but you can probably figure it out.

2) Next, just explore all accessible areas. You should be able to find one chamber with a sarcophagus in it (this is the King's Chamber), one chamber with a mini-robot and some electronic equipment in it (this is the Queen's Chamber), and one clue hidden in another location that will give you the code you need to operate the mini-robot. Your goal is to find this clue (don't use the robot until you have it.) There's also a lab journal here that you can read, though it's very long and boring, contains no clues, and sheds little light on Gil or the plot.

3) Next, put the robot into the hole in the wall (there's only one usable one, though there are several other vents in this room; don't panic half-way down and worry that you've put the robot in the wrong shaft and it will just drive forwards forever and ever until you bring it back and put it in the right place. That is the right place, this just happens to be the most excruciating part of the entire game.) Sit there with your hands on the controls for between five and ten minutes, using the other controls to jiggle it whenever it gets stuck along the way. You will know when you're done because it will ask you for a password. Enter the right password, and a secret door will open. You don't need to bring the little robot all the way back, thankfully.

4) This is counterintuitive, but DON'T go through the secret door that just opened in the Queen's Chamber. This is what the game expects you to do next, but at the end of the Queen's Crypt, there will be a puzzle you will be unable to solve without stuff you find in the King's Crypt. You're then meant to give up and return to the main pyramid to try something else, explore the King's Crypt, find what you need, come back to the Queen's Crypt and all the way back to where you were in the first place, and solve the puzzle; but this is such terrible game design and such a tremendous inconvenience that it deserves to be skipped. So just go back to the King's Chamber and open the secret door in there instead, and enter the King's Crypt next.

THE KING'S CRYPT

Your goal in here is to find five keys and three stone tablets. Always save before touching a tablet (as Gil implied in his translation tape, some of the tablets are cursed), and before approaching cobras (that's just common sense right there.)

1) First find the secret entrance to the crypt.

2) The crypt itself consists of a circular corridor with nine exits coming off it: the tunnel back to the main pyramid area, six rooms you can enter through archways from the corridor, and two rooms you can reach through special entrances from the corridor. You can explore these in any order you like, but the stairs leading up (behind the closed door with the sun on it) are very, very long and only lead to a puzzle you can't solve without first exploring the archway rooms, so you'll be happiest if you save that one for last. It's easy to get turned around due to the sloppy navigation system, but if you ever get confused as to where you are, the doorways on this level are decorated with carvings to help you tell them apart (one of the few helpful details in this game). Following the left wall (any order would do, but I've been a left-wall mapper since Werdna days), the areas of this crypt are marked with a throne, a sword, a bell, a sun (this is the closed door, and there's also an unmarked tunnel here), arrows, a boat, and a pot.

3) So your next goal is to explore all these rooms (except for the one behind the sun door). In particular you are looking for five keys, a scope, the correct starmap, a sacred amulet, two tablets, two useful scrolls (labeled "archway" and "yacht"), and an important clue that has to do with the position of different colors (write it down, the game won't keep track of it for you). There are other objects on this level that you will need to solve the puzzles necessary to collect these important items, but those are the only things that are important or useful to bring onward with you.

If you're missing any of these objects, be sure that you have looked inside containers, and also that you have completed all the puzzles on this level: found the secret door in the throne room, opened the sealed doors in the bell room, figured out how to tame the cobras, gotten the pillars open in the arrow room, figured out how to cross the chasm on the second floor of that room, and carefully examined the statues in the boat room. You also need to carefully examine the several pots scattered around this level that can be freely rotated, looking at them from all directions, to determine which of them contains the 'correct' starmap.

4) Now you can go up the pointlessly long flight of stairs to the lamest room in the entire secret dungeon: the one with windows through which you can view the outside sky. (Oh, like THAT would really have gone unnoticed for thousands of years.) To get there, you first have to turn the lights on by solving a star puzzle. Once in the room, you need to note down some more star patterns. You can have a nap on the thing that looks like a baby's changing table; it doesn't matter if you do this again before leaving or not, the game will have forgotten about it by the time you go outside again.

5) That's all you need from the King's Crypt; you can go back to the Queen's Chamber now, and go through the secret door into the Queen's Crypt. Save before doing this, since the game will want you to swap disks here and quits without saving if you don't do this exactly to its liking (it gets particularly persnickety about it if you have both a DVD player and a CD player on your machine).

THE QUEEN'S CRYPT

Your goal in here is to find six special keys and six scrolls telling you how to use them. Along the way, of course, there will be other items it will be necessary for you to take and use in order to reach all of those critical objects, most obviously the other three stone tablets. As before, always save before touching a tablet or approaching a snake. Crocodiles won't hurt you.

There are five rooms off the main hallway in this crypt, several of them opening out into much larger areas. You can do them in any order you like, but you'll have the least amount of backtracking to do if you just take them in order:

1) Chain Door Room #1. This room is timed, but it's impossible to be trapped and lose your game; you can keep trying as often as you need to.

2) Boat Room. There are two major puzzles in here, each of which will require information from one of the important scrolls from the King's Crypt to solve and each of which will open a new area if you solve it correctly. The Alligator Room just has a really ridiculous Pitfall reference and a stone tablet, but the River of Death is a huge area with a ton of red herrings and empty areas and several real puzzles to solve, so I'll give it its own heading.

2a) River of Death. You get here by swimming underwater from the Boat Room, but no matter how long you dally or how many hundreds of pounds of stone you're loaded down with, you will never drown, so take your time. Once you resurface, you'll be in a watery maze that is insanely hard to navigate because the tunnels all look the same and the interface keeps turning you around whenever you try to look around. Just keep randomly clicking until you reach one of those rare screens where you're allowed to freely rotate your view. There are four tunnels exiting this spot, counting the one you came in by. They're unmarked, so it's hard to tell them apart without just starting down them. They lead to a Skeleton Grotto, a Cobra Room, and a Lost Temple of Ra, and these three areas can only be done in that order, so if you find yourself climbing out of a swimming pool into the sunshine before having seen the skeleton and the cobra, you might as well turn around and go back again, instead of wasting any more time in the large, boring temple area without the objects you need to solve it. There's something optional in the Skeleton Grotto: the field notes of the hapless former possessor of the bones. They make interesting reading. Otherwise all you need to bring with you to move on to the Temple of Ra are the final two stone tablets.

2b) Lost Temple of Ra. This area is even huger than the River of Death, but more than 9/10 of it is useless, time-wasting filler. Like the River of Death, the Lost Temple allows you to wander aimlessly till the cows come home but can only be actually solved in one order, so you can waste huge amounts of time in here if you don't know where to head next. Let me save you that time: FIRST get out of the pool and go straight through the arch and explore the banks of the river. You're done when you've found a scroll, three weights, a color code, and a hieroglyph code. SECOND, explore the temple you started in, find and solve the balance puzzle, and learn a second hieroglyph code. (The bottommost wheel is hard to set correctly, if the chains haven't moved, try shifting it one position to the left or right to see if that helps.) THIRD, go to the golden pyramid, and use all these codes to set it correctly. Once you have the six special scrolls, you're done and can go all the way back up to the Queen's Crypt.

3) Harp Room. Solve a puzzle, get an important item.

4) Chain Door Room #2. Collect an item.

5) Rotating Room Maze. You must set and explore this small maze in at least two different positions. (There's a map to this rotating maze conveniently placed in Chain Door Room #2, if you're frustrated.) You won't be able to do anything in the central room until you have the Sacred Cull. Once you have it, you can complete something I completely refuse to acknowledge as a "puzzle" (it's total brainless drudgework that makes no logical sense anyway) to get the elevator working so you can go down to the second level of the maze. The sun contraption in this room is a total red herring as far as I know.

5a) Anubis Maze: You'll have seen pictures of this maze all over the place by now, but due to your inability to control how far you turn and whether or not you step forward at any given juncture, a map is of no help to you here. I actually found that clicking the forward arrow about 80 times in a row eventually led me to the center just by virtue of the way the brain-damaged navigation of this game is designed. If you're more methodical, you can track your way through by following the Anubis heads (Anubis looks like a black jackal). Once you make it to the center, solve a pair of puzzles to open up some hallways with creepy corpse decor and collect the six special keys you need to open the door under the Sphinx.

THE SPHINX REVISITED

There are two big puzzles to solve here: where to place each key (you'll need the Sacred Scroll and the six scrolls from the Golden Pyramid to solve that one) and which button to push on the final contraption (you'll need all the star information you've been laboriously collecting for that one). Save before pushing any buttons, because if you solve it incorrectly you'll be killed.

And... you've won! It's more than a little anticlimactic--the game ends with a silly plot twist, a long and extremely boring monologue by a bad actor, you looking at something mortals aren't supposed to look at, and then the game abruptly exiting. Well, okay, but you made it through! If you enjoyed this game and are looking for more of the same, you can try its sequel, The Omega Stone, where you'll find out what Atlantis has to do with any of this. If you're hoping for a less aggravating puzzle adventure game, try my list of adventure game reviews.

Happy gaming!

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