Riddle of the Sphinx, released in December 2000, was a valiant effort to combine the historical facts surrounding Egyptian civilization with modern speculation and a dose of fiction. Unfortunately, the game didn’t quite achieve this. Now, enter The Omega Stone: Riddle of the Sphinx II.
Sir Gil Blythe Geoffreys, famous archeologist (played quite well by the game’s co-creator, Jeff Tobler) has enlisted you to help him solve the mystery of The Omega Stone, and how it seemingly connects a number of ancient ruins including those of the Giza Plateau, Stonehenge, the Mayan Pyramids, Easter Island and Bimini, the underwater road to Atlantis. You will be required to travel the world, visiting these and other sites with the help of your quirky driver, Hump.
The Omega Stone is the direct sequel to Riddle of the Sphinx, a game where you (surprise, surprise) successfully discovered the riddle of the Sphinx, of ancient Egypt fame. Whereas in the first game you had a single area to explore, the Giza Plateau, Omega Stone offers a much larger playing field consisting of over five environments of varying size.
This sequel picks up immediately after the conclusion of the first game, and although it isn’t entirely necessary to have played Riddle of the Sphinx, it’s certainly not a bad idea. The opening scenes may seem a little jarring, otherwise.
The Omega Stone’s gameplay is just as you’d expect from a standard first-person adventure. Using the point-and-click interface, you’ll move from one spot to the next and pan a full 360 degrees. As with Microïds’ Road to India, it is critical that you search every nook and cranny for hotspots and potential inventory items. There are many instances where I searched areas repeatedly, thinking that there must be something that I was missing, only to accidentally move the cursor over an integral item at a much later time. Additionally, you may want to consider cranking up the brightness of your monitor while playing through some of the darker scenes, otherwise you may be in for some trouble. Sure, caves may be dark in the real world, but it’s no fun trying to find a single tiny item in near darkness (read: needle in a haystack).
The game’s puzzles vary greatly in their difficulty; I was able to complete the puzzles of the Easter Island portion of the game within mere minutes, while the solution to the Mayan Pyramids eluded me for much longer. Tasks range from finding a crowbar and later using it to open a locked door, to manipulating the positions of giant stone statues to permit your passing an underground booby-trap.
If you’re a fan of gadgets, then look no further: this game’s for you. The Omega Stone is crammed to the brim with all sorts of goodies—you’ve got your typical everyday grappling hook, crowbar and detonator, and even some more exotic items such as an ancient mask that may offer more than your next Halloween costume.
The graphics are noticeably improved over the original Riddle of the Sphinx, being sharper and exhibiting less graininess. Artistically, the environments are well detailed, but incredibly static. Although you may hear the sounds of the tide coming in, and birds chirping above you, don’t expect to actually see these things in motion. A little animation, such as the swaying of trees in the wind, would have gone a long way.
The Omega Stone is quite sparse where sound is considered. Music, while appropriate to the mood of the game, is used sparingly. I suppose this could be considered a good thing, as you won’t be forced to endure the same musical chords played repeatedly throughout. Unfortunately, sound effects are very simplistic, and with little variation. You won’t hear much more than one or two things in any given scene: a bird call here, or blowing wind there. What you do hear is crisp and clear, however.
Riddle of the Sphinx had issues at the time of its release, such as outdated graphics, a clunky interface, and a focus on disconnected puzzles. I had hoped that, if a sequel was ever attempted, a few key aspects of the game would be brought back to the drawing board. Fortunately, with The Omega Stone, developer Omni Adventures has done just that. The graphics and interface are vastly improved and the puzzles more organically connected to the game world; the game as a whole is far more compelling. If the thought of exploring some of our world’s most famous ruins and mysteries interests you, I encourage you to give The Omega Stone: Riddle of the Sphinx II a try.