Riddle of the Sphinx is one of the few games where you can manipulate a goddess into appearing whenever you want.
- Emulator used: BizHawk 1.11.0, technically
- Hardest difficulty
- Aims for fastest time
- Manipulates luck
- Probably isn't how most people beat this game
Riddle of the Sphinx: An Egyptian Adventure was released for the PC on December 5th, 2000. It's about a young archaeologist in search of his missing mentor.
Now that you know that, let me talk about THIS game.
Riddle of the Sphinx is an Atari 2600 game, developed by Imagic, and it's surprisingly complex for an A2600 game. According to AtariAge, the game was released in n/a, and the hack "Rambo in Afghanistan" used it as a base. The game has three difficulty settings: Game 1, Game 2, and Game 3. This TAS is done on Game 3, the hardest.
So here's another run I started a very long time ago and just now got around to finishing. Since it's such a short run, I figured I'd tackle it, maybe get it done in a day or two after some heavy luck manipulation, and I ended up finishing it in a couple hours after getting lucky with... well... luck manipulation. I guess I manipulated my own luck! Haha! Right guys? *holds up hand for high fives*
Being an Atari 2600 game with not much to do, I didn't try too hard to make it an entertaining watch. You can't get too close to any object without stopping, and stopping isn't a particularly useful speed tactic most of the time. I try to weave in and out of the trees, camels, scorpions, and minor gods as much as I can, but I'm more or less locked to certain areas to get/give what I need.
I think I started this run around a year ago, maybe a little less, which is why the header says BizHawk 1.8.1, but I finished the run on 1.11.0 mostly using TAStudio. TAStudio in 1.11.0 counts re-records, and it counts them very well. Too well, in fact, in that any time input is changed at all, it counts a re-record, leading to a very inflated count. I used about 500 manual re-records, the rest just came from TAStudio. I guess ~1000 would be a good estimate for a non-inflated count. I don't know.
Fun fact: You could have watched this run at least 3 times in the time it took you to read these comments so far.
Beating the Game
This is how you're expected to beat Game 3:
- The first thing you do is head south and grab the Staff from the oasis
- Then you head north, trying to find a Leaf and a Scroll along the way
- You present the Leaf and Scroll to the Phoenix. The Phoenix gives you a key and allows you to pass
- Then you travel backwards to the first Pyramid to unlock it with the key, getting the first of three Tablets
- You head north again, trying to find a Jug and a Crown along the way
- You present the Jug and Crown to the Temple of Isis as you did with the Phoenix, and in return you are allowed passage and a key
- Once again, the key unlocks a Pyramid, giving you a Tablet in return
- You travel onward, trying to find a Shield and an Ankh
- These are offered to the Temple of Anubis, for the same prizes as before
- This key unlocks the final Pyramid and gives you the final Tablet
- You meet the Sphinx as you travel ahead, and to solve its riddle, you need to present it the correct Tablet
- Once you are allowed past the Sphinx, you can reach the Temple of Ra, where you offer your Staff and the treasures you have collected
Pretty cool, huh? Fortunately, we can skip a lot of those steps in the TAS.
How I Beat the Game
I start the game a couple frames late. This sets up the Sphinx to want the most efficient Tablet. Since I start the game with a Spade, I use it to dig up a Sceptre as soon as I can. The Sceptre increases speed as long as it's selected, so I try to leave it selected as often as I possibly can.
The Staff is needed to actually complete the game, so I head backward for it right out of the gate. I manipulate a Leaf off of a passing trader and beeline for the Phoenix and skipping the first Tablet. Getting that Tablet would require backtracking, thus I made sure it wasn't the one the Sphinx wanted.
The game switches items verrrrrrry slowly, so I try not to have more items than I need at any given point. I could collect everything I need right out of the gate, but it would take forever to switch to them and I need to keep the cursor on the Sceptre to maintain max speed.
Moving ahead, I manipulate another trader into giving me the Jug, and just like before I beeline to the Temple of Isis and skip the second Tablet. Even though the Pyramid is ahead of us, it's still a waste of time to pick up any Tablet that isn't the one the Sphinx wants, and the Sphinx wants the third Tablet in this run.
The heaviest luck manipulation happens on the way to the Temple of Anubis, where I need to wait a couple frames to get the Shield from a trader, then I need to wait another couple frames in order to get Isis herself to appear. The Ankh is a treasure item, which means it can't be obtained from traders. It can only be obtained from either digging with the Spade, or by running into Isis. The Spade method is a lot slower, so Isis is needed.
I make sure to specifically collect the Shield before the Ankh. This puts the Shield in the 3rd slot and the Ankh in the 4th. Offering the Shield frees up the 3rd slot, and then offering the Ankh after that will put the key straight into the 3rd slot. If I had gotten the Ankh first, the key would be in the 4th slot, wasting quite a few frames later on when I need to use it.
You may think offering the Ankh looks incredibly sloppy, but that's actually as fast as the game will let me offer it. It takes the Shield immediately, but it takes a little over 100 frames to even accept the Ankh after that. No matter what I do there, it'll take the same amount of time. It's unfortunate, but that's how the game works.
The key is, of course, offered at the Pyramid and the third Tablet is received. I now have everything I need to beat the game. I offer the Tablet to the Sphinx, then head forward and offer the Staff to the Temple of Ra. It takes my Sceptre, since it's a treasure, and the game ends. Hooray!
So I'll be the first to admit that this is a bit of a rushed project. It's a short, simplistic game that doesn't require much in the way of TASing. Some of the movement was actually done at full speed just to save me some time. I did go back through the run in TAStudio to look for places where I may have stopped for a frame unintentionally (like running into NPCs or obstacles), but I couldn't find any.
I suppose the best way to improve the run would just be better luck manipulation. A lot about the game can be manipulated, and I'm sure there's a better luck manipulation route out there, but it would require a fair bit of brute forcing. Maybe I'm submitting this just to get other people interested in the game, since submissions are far more watched than game threads. I don't know.
All in all, this was definitely a project. It went by surprisingly fast, I hardly even remember working on it even though I finished it just a couple of hours ago, and that's pretty much it. I can't even be too snarky about it in the submission text, there's just not enough to say.