Luxor Evolved Review
The trend started by Pac-Man Championship Edition - taking a classic arcade game and giving it bright neon graphics, a pulsating techno soundtrack, and speeding up the gameplay, basically merging the retro arcade and rave experiences - has now hit the arcade puzzle game genre. Luxor Evolved was never an arcade game, and since the first game in the series appeared less than ten years ago it hasn't been around long enough to earn retro cred, but that hasn't stopped the game from pretending it graced 1980s arcades with the likes of Berserk, Asteroids, and Tempest.
First, let's cover the basics for those of you who haven't played a Luxor game (or its separated at birth twin, Zuma) before. In Luxor Evolved, little scarabs push rows of differently colored marbles down a series of grooved tracks with the goal of getting at least one marble to the end of one of the tracks and into the little pyramid that sits there. If they do, you lose a life, so your goal is to stop them from accomplishing theirs. To do so, you're given a marble shooter that you can move horizontally across the bottom of the screen and an infinite supply of marbles. When you launch a marble it will push its way into the line of marbles coming down the track. It may seem counterproductive to add more marbles to the game board, but if the color of the marble you add to the chain creates a string of three or more marbles of the same color, then those marbles are eliminated. In addition, if a new match is made as the other marbles collapse the line to close the gap they'll be eliminated as well, so a couple of well-placed shots can set up a nice chain reaction.
Now it's time to come to the "evolved" part of the game. Previous iterations of Luxor were played on screens that resembled wooden boards and were adorned with ancient Egyptian inspired hieroglyphics and art. In Luxor Evolved the play space has been given an overhaul to give it the appearance of a retro arcade game like Tempest, but with the lines drawn with bright, neon colors. Bonus items dropped when you eliminate a scarab look like the sort of bonus items Pac-Man would gobble up. Bonus rounds have been added in which you try to eliminate marbles flying in patterns with different weapons ala the Galaga bonus rounds. There are also now boss battles in the game in which you must fire marbles into the marble chains circling the boss' eye. And lastly, in the spirit of the retro arcade makeover games, the background music has been replaced with a thumping electronica-inspired soundtrack.
So how does this made-over puzzle game play? Well, if you're a traditional puzzle game player, then all of these bright lights and loud noises will probably add a little stress to your leisurely puzzle time and leave you worrying about the possibility of game-induced seizures. On the other hand, if you're a fan of retro arcade games then you'll appreciate all of the touches in the game that are inspired by the classics. A particular treat will come in the form of the game's secret levels, which play out over graphics inspired by games like Asteroids, Pac-Man, and Tempest that are about as close to the originals as developer MumboJumbo could get without risk of being sued. Also, arcade gamers will appreciate all of the power-ups available in the game, and firing off a few of those coupled with some well-placed marble shots can lead to a satisfying explosive screen-clearing series of chainreactions. I enjoyed playing Luxor Evolved, although I definitely felt that I was playing an arcade game more than a puzzle game. Having played other Luxor (and Zuma) games, I can say that this has decidedly different feel to it than those other games. While I did appreciate the whole retro game homage, there were a couple of things that I wish were a little different. The first is that the game's soundtrack needed a little more variety. I can appreciate the techno beats the game delivers, but many of the tracks are too similar to one another and it began to get a little old during longer play sessions. More importantly, I found the game to be a lot easier than other Luxor games that I've played. I completed the game on my first play on normal mode - granted it took a couple of hours, but I can't remember ever playing a puzzle game and completing it on my first try. There is a hard mode available (and one level beyond that if you complete the game on hard), but it was only slightly more challenging than the normal mode. It seemed like it just sped things up a bit rather than adding more marble colors or anything else that made the puzzle aspect of the game more challenging.
So there you have it. Traditionalist puzzle gamers should probably take a pass on Luxor Evolved, but those who enjoy the arcade classics - or their modern remixes - will probably enjoy it. However, keep in mind that it may be the kind of game that's good for a few hours of play, but not something that you'll come back to time and again when you're looking for a puzzle challenge.
Final Rating: 78%. Luxor "evolves" into an arcade classic.