Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The blue monkey has spoken! - a review of Ancient Quest of Saqqarah

Rarely will you hear me say I enjoy a Match-3 game. Ancient Quest of Saqqarah has proven to be the exception to the rule. This can probably be attributed to the fact that this is not your ordinary Match-3 game.

What I liked

  • Excellent graphics and animations
  • Fitting music
  • Ancient Egyptian theme
  • Lighting effects/atmosphere
  • Variety of mechanics
  • Great voice-over work
  • Relaxed mode

What I didn't like

  • Longer levels as a means of increasing difficulty


Quick Plot

A secret underground oasis holds the temples of 7 ancient Egyptian deities. With the help of Khufu, the blue humanoid monkey, restore the temples of the 7 good deities so that they can combine their power to keep the evil Seth locked in his prison forever!


Features

  • 7 temples, 7 deity statues to restore, 7 different Match-3 mechanics
  • 9 trophies to earn, with Stone, Silver, and Gold ranks for each
  • 24 normal levels and 24 hard levels within each temple
  • Several magical power upgrades for Khufu, with 3 upgrade ranks for each
  • 2 types of minigames
  • Timed or Relaxed modes
  • Expandable by downloading SaqPacks from the developer's website
  • A talking blue monkey



Khufu - the magical blue monkey



Highlights

The thing that immediately drew my attention was the uncommonly high level of quality that the developers built into this game. The atmosphere of the game is wonderful. They first put you in the oasis scene, where you choose a temple to play in. This underground oasis is beautiful. There are animated torches and waterfalls, with bridges, palm trees, and undergrowth. This idyllic and mysterious scene is very attractive. Then, inside each temple, it's dark, but the dim lighting shines from somewhere onto the stonework framing the level. It's a fun place to be. This atmosphere alone made the game enjoyable to play.

You are always accompanied by pleasant and memorable Egyptian music, which is likely to remain in your mind throughout the day (beware!). To polish off the audio presentation, the game boasts excellent professional voice work for Khufu and each of the deity statues.

While the level boards are always set up in the same way - a series of points connected by threads - the mechanics for clearing the board change with each temple, and each board is arranged differently. This is what keeps the game interesting. Within each temple, there are difficulties added every 6 levels so that, as you proceed, gameplay becomes more challenging. To offset the difficulty, Khufu, your magical aid, also gains power-ups periodically. As you collect power (every time you make matches of 4 or more), Khufu's magic meter goes up. Once the meter is full, he casts all of his available spells, breaking pieces and helping you clear the board. Not only is this game completely non-standard in it's approach to the Match-3 idea, but they give you 7 different ways to clear the boards. By my calculations, this base game offers 336 unique levels without counting the simple minigames that are thrown in from time to time. One minigame is just clicking on 6 scurrying scarab beetles. The other is a searching puzzle. A wall is covered with hieroglyphics and you have to locate a number of certain glyphs.


The secret underground oasis! (trophies at the bottom)




Suitable for the family?

There's a talking blue monkey in the game. What more could you ask for? Kids love watching Khufu as he makes various motions in the corner of the screen during levels. He also speaks when he casts his spells. My kids also liked the animal heads on some of the deity statues.

There's nothing weird, scary, or disturbing in this game. It's fun, cute, thematic, and family friendly.


What a level looks like



The family man's final ruling

I had a lot of fun with this game. I don't imagine Match 3 could be done with any more innovation, variety, and polish. Some companies make excellent games, and some make weak and boring games. Ancient Quest of Saqqarah is
among some of the best-produced games I've played, which puts it in the "excellent" category for me. Plus, if you like the game, finish it, and decide you want even more, you can download SaqPacks from the developer's website. SaqPacks expand the game with more levels. Read about them here.

You'll like the game if...

  • You like Match 3
  • You are looking for an innovative new appraoch to Match 3
  • You like ancient Egypt as a theme
  • You like only the best in terms of production quality

You won't like the game if...

  • You get bored playing puzzly games with minimal story


My rating:

If you want to play Saqqarah, click below:

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