Monday, July 20, 2009

Take that, scarab! - a review of Luxor 3

Of all the marble popper games I've played, Luxor 3 has become my favorite. Read on to find out why!

What I liked

  • Lush graphics
  • Good sound effects and music
  • Ancient Egyptian theme
  • Upgrade system
  • Variety of gameplay
  • Smooth physics

What I didn't like

  • Throwaway storyline
  • Small music library
  • Upgraded shooters are only for looks


Quick Plot

I'm not sure exactly what the plot is because I skipped through the text screens! But it's something about Egyptian deities. I think Set is bad and you have to stop him or something. Honestly, don't expect to get into the story. This game is about pow-pow-pow sphere bashing!


Features

Luxor 3 is loaded with features that keep it interesting and just plain fun. I've listed as many of these features as I could think of:
  • New sphere colors added as you progress. Aqua and Orange have good bonuses, but you can’t upgrade them.
  • No lives! Just keep trying again when you fail.
  • Power-ups are color coded. Every time you get 3 consecutive breaks, the 3rd break gives you a bonus of that color.
  • The shop offers upgrades to power-ups, 2 new styles of shooters, and 3 new styles of spheres. Items are continually unlocked as you earn points by catching treasure.
  • Environments have depth to them, so balls get smaller as they move deeper into the scene away from you.
  • Lots of things to catch - treasure, ankh coins, power-ups.
  • Extra things to shoot at (canopic jars, beetles) - they appear and then disappear after a few moments.
  • Collecting all 4 jars for a level opens a bonus round in which you collect mass treasure (points).
  • 3 difficulties of play - Easy, Medium, Hard. Insane difficulty is unlocked when you finish the Adventure game. Points earned are multiplied on higher difficulties.
  • Treasure room. As you accomplish various feats, you earn treasures, which are just cool things to look at in the virtual treasure room.
  • 3 types of play to choose from: Adventure, Free Play, Puzzle
  • Play modes during the adventure break up monotony and offer variety. Classic Mode, Crossing the Nile, Puzzle Mode, Treasure Collecting, Survival Mode.
  • Each time you finish a level, a pyramid gets build a little higher. Your goal is to complete it.
Here's a screenshot of the Store, where you buy all of your upgrades:




Power-Ups

Luxor 3 has a collection of useful power-ups, which are color-coded:
  • Red: Speed shot, Fireball
  • Green: Net, Reverse
  • Blue: Slow, Lightning
  • Yellow: Stop, Wild Sphere
  • Purple: Color Bomb, Scorpion
  • White: Color Cloud, Color Replacer
  • Black: Pyramid Blocker, Match Highlighter
  • Aqua: Color Sort
  • Orange: Sandstorm

Highlights

The things that made this game so fun for me were the power-ups (and their upgraded versions!) and the variety. You get variety of gameplay modes, variety of interesting stage backdrops, variety of power-ups, and variety of goals. There's always a reason to keep playing.

In Classic mode, you just shoot the marbles (Luxor games call them "spheres") until you've destroyed a certain number of trains (in Luxor 3, the sphere trains are pushed by beetles).

In Puzzle mode, you are given a number of stationary sphere trains and a pre-determined set of spheres to shoot. Your goal is to clear the board using only the spheres you've been given.

In Survival mode, you are fighting trains of spheres against a set time, which eventually gets up to 4 minutes. You have to survive until time runs out.

In Crossing the Nile mode, you are on one side of the river and the train of spheres you need to destroy is on the other side. The problem is, there are multiple layers of sphere trains moving back and forth along the river, blocking the path to your target. You have to knock out enough of these interfering trains to clear the way so you can destroy the train on the other side of the river.

If you collect all 4 canopic jars for a series of levels, you unlock a bonus level in which you collect treasure. Beetles scurry across the screen in all directions carrying two spheres of the same color. All you need to do is hit them with a sphere of the same color to destroy them, which drops treasure. As long as you don't mess up any shots, the treasure drops increase, starting with 1 piece of treasure, then 2, then 3, and so on. Treasure is points, and points unlock items in the store, so these levels are helpful for hoarding riches.

In order to upgrade power-ups in this game, you need to collect ankh coins which fall periodically as you break spheres and shoot the twirling beetles (these pop up at random). Then, you spend ankh coins in the Store.

The audio in the game was good. The Egyptian-sounding music is fitting, but there is very little variety, maybe 2 or 3 tracks. I would have liked a more diverse soundtrack, but it didn't bother me hearing the same tracks over and over. The sound effects are also very good.

Another minor disappointment was that after all that hard work collecting points and unlocking the different shooter models, the new shooters don't give you anything other than a new look. They could have at least given them gravitational pull (I loved that feature of Atlantis Sky Patrol) or made them wider so they can more easily catch drops. Similarly, you can unlock 3 different styles of spheres to use. I never used them because the default set is the coolest-looking!

I did like that I could choose a different look for my shooter though. My favorite was the blue Sci-fi model, so I used that for the rest of the game once I bought it.


Default shooter


Sci-fi shooter
5,000,000 points to unlock


Xtreme! shooter
15,000,000 points to unlock


The least useful power-ups for me were Speed Shot (red), Net (green), Wild Sphere (yellow), and Match Highlighter (black). Late in the game when I was really hoping for a Pyramid Blocker (black), Scorpion (purple), or Color Sort (aqua), these less-useful power-ups were a let-down. Fortunately, you have control over which power-up color you receive. Just make sure your third break in a row is the color you want.

One other great feature: you don't have a number of lives in this game. You don't have to worry about losing and having to start over. If you fail a level, you just try again until you beat it.


Suitable for the family?

This is the kind of game that my little kids could watch, yelling, "Get it, Daddy! Get the beetle!" But don't expect to gather the family around the computer to enjoy working as a team. Expect to ride solo on this one. I suppose if your kids were studying ancient Egypt in school you could use this game as something to go along with the study for fun. The kids would probably recognize names and themes from the time period.

The only other thing to mention is that some puzzle levels can be very challenging. Fortunately, if you get stuck during the Adventure, you can choose to skip puzzle levels.


The family man's final ruling

If you like marble poppers, or plan to try one, this is the game to play. It never gets too difficult. When it does get tough, you have all the power-ups you need.

This game was just a blast. It's really an activity explosion as you swoosh your shooter across the bottom of the screen,
bashing spheres and catching drops left and right. I've finished the game, but I'm playing through it again in Insane mode, trying to complete my treasure room!

You'll like the game if...

  • You like marble popper games
  • You like ancient Egypt

You won't like the game if...

  • You don't like marble popper games, especially ones with layers of complexity


My rating:

If you want to play Luxor 3, click below:

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