Luxor: Pharaoh's Challenge Review
Luxor: Pharaoh’s Challenge is one of those puzzle games that fits in a familiar mold. If you’ve played Zuma, Magnetica, or similar puzzle games, then the colored marble matching gameplay will be immediately familiar to you. In this case please bear with me while I bring everybody else up to speed.
Each puzzle in the game features a groove which winds across the screen. A row of marbles will start traveling from the start of the groove and try to make it all the way to an exit hole at the end of the groove. Your job is to prevent this from happening. To do so you’re given control of a scarab-shaped marble shooter that can be moved horizontally along the bottom of the screen. You use the scarab to shoot colored marbles across the puzzle and into the chain of marbles snaking their way along the screen. If you manage to place your marble into the chain to create a row of three or more consecutive marbles of the same color, the marbles are eliminated and the rest of the chain snaps back to fill the gap. If this creates more matches of consecutive marbles of the same color, then they too will disappear in a chain reaction. Fail to make a match, though, and your marble simply gets added to the chain, making it longer and your job correspondingly more difficult. To beat the puzzle you must eliminate all of the marbles before they reach the end of the track.
At first launching the marbles into the right spots on the chain isn’t too difficult, but as you make your way through the game things will get more challenging. You’ll see longer chains, multiple chains of marbles, and additional marble colors for starters, not to mention that the chains will move progressively faster as you advance through the game. Also, the tracks will grow more complicated, with obstacles appearing on the playing area or switchbacks in the groove. When the groove has switchbacks, one end of the marble chain can act as a screen for the other and block the shot that you need to take. You do get a little help in the form of power-ups which fall down the screen after you eliminate a marble chain or set off a chain reaction. These are random short-term enhancements such as a wild marble that will match any color or a light beam to help you line up your shots. You can also earn a collection of “blessings” as you make your way through the game. These are essentially power-ups that last for an entire level and include things like score multipliers. You can have up to three blessings active on a level.
As you can probably guess from the title, the game has an Ancient Egyptian theme to its puzzles. You’ll see all manner of hieroglyphs and Egyptian art and architecture in the game’s levels. The game also uses it theme to create a story in an attempt to tie the puzzles together, but the story is doled out in scrolling text snippets between levels and won’t do much to catch your interest. Making your way through the story mode does have the advantage of unlocking more puzzles for play in the game’s endless mode. In this mode you play on one level and keep going until marbles make it to the end of the track. Marble chains are continually spawned and the play gets progressively harder in this mode, and the goals are simply to see how long you can survive and how high a score you can achieve.
Now for the key point, is it fun? Well, the short answer to this question is “yes”. Luxor is like an action puzzle similar to Tetris in that things are relatively easy at first but once they start speeding up the game can get pretty frantic. It’s easy to pop the game in and play a puzzle or two when you need a quick diversion. On the downside the game’s presentation isn’t very good. Most of the screens look slightly out of focus, as if the game was ported from the PSP version and the screens were simply upscaled. The stat-tracking is kind of scattershot and doesn’t seem to work that well. The game doesn’t seem to save your high scores from the endless mode either, which is a big oversight considering the point of this mode is to see how high of a score you can achieve. And several puzzles into the story mode my progress was still reported as 0%.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 70%. The puzzle play is enjoyable enough but overall the game feels incomplete.