Thursday, July 1, 2010

Review - Luxor: Quest for the Afterlife!

A while back, I reviewed the Egyptian-themed marble popper game, Luxor 3. The game had many outstanding features, and it remains one of my favorite games to this day.

When approaching the next game in the series, I wasn't sure what to expect. It could be better, the same, or worse. But which?

That's what I'll tell you today in my review of Luxor: Quest for the Afterlife!

What I liked

  • Amazingly polished production
  • Soundtrack
  • Graphics/Scenery
  • Upgrades
  • Theme/Setting
  • Good momentum

What I didn't like

  • No clues for obtaining treasures
  • Uninteresting story
  • Different balls are only for looks



Quick Plot

An Egyptian lady is worried about something having to do with canopic jars and she's trying to figure out who is behind her troubles. She's worried about the afterlife, I think. (I skipped the story segments after the first couple because they just didn't interest me.)




Mechanics

Marble popping: As with all other Luxor games, this 5th entry is a sphere-shooting game. Your shooter slides back and forth across the bottom of the screen. It always has marbles of two colors to choose from. You right-click to switch between these two marbles.

A chain of marbles comes rolling onto the screen. Your job is to launch marbles into these chains to create groups of 3 or more of the same color. When you fire, say, a green marble into a group of 2 or more green marbles, that whole group breaks and the chain automatically fills in the gap. If a chain enters the temple (exit) at the end of the marble path, you lose the level. So you need to destroy each chain completely before it enters the exit.

When you make 3 breaks in succession, "drops" fall down. These are power-ups and treasures. The power-ups and treasures in this game are exactly the same as those in Luxor 3. (I wrote about them in detail in my Luxor 3 review, so look there if you would like to know more.)

Power-ups give you a special one-time ability like a fireball that destroys all marbles in one area, or a color sorter that puts all marbles of the same color together.

Treasures give you points. A certain number of points are required to unlock several items in the store. One type of treasure - ankh coins - are what you use to pay for items in the store.


Bridges level. The marbles look smaller as they get deeper into the chasm. Awesome!

Really, this game does almost everything exactly as it was done in Luxor 3. The only slight differences I noticed were:
  • New levels
  • New map travel feature
  • New music
  • Slightly different ball physics
  • Different ball sounds
There are two ways to look at the similarities to Luxor 3. You can either gripe that there is nothing new or innovative in this game, or you can rejoice that there is more of the same goodness.

Personally, I sit solidly in the second camp. I think that Luxor 3 nailed marble popping to something like perfection. And so, I can think of very few areas that could be improved. Let me list the few areas that I think could use improvement. These are very minor and nitpicky, but I think they could be beneficial.
  • Marble types: You can unlock and purchase 3 additional styles of marbles in the store. But these offer a different look and nothing more, and I don't think any of them look as cool as the standard set. I wonder if the developers could think of a way to make these alternate balls somehow more powerful? Maybe when they hit, they shoot lightning out and destroy other balls? I don't know. But unlocking a new "look" doesn't do much for me.
  • Shooter types: The same thing applies here. The unlockable shooters offer nothing but a look. Although the sci-fi shooter is so sweet-looking that it is a satisfying purchase.
  • Treasure room: The treasure room is the same thing as a trophy room in any other casual game. In Luxor 3, you could mouse over the empty treasure slots in the treasure room and at least see the name of the treasure. This gave some clue as to how to earn them. For some reason, in Quest for the Afterlife, they give you no hints at all. So your only option is to play more, I suppose, and hope that your skills earn you those elusive treasures.
  • Puzzle mode: Luxor 3 had a longer puzzle mode, as I remember it. For this newer game, they seem to have cut down the number of puzzles, and they are easier to figure out this time around. I would have liked more puzzles. Puzzle mode is a great feature where they set up a few stationary chains of marbles and you have to figure out how to destroy all of the chains with a limited, pre-ordered set of marbles. Some of them require you to actually time your shots just right, which is fun and challenging.

The treasure (trophy) room.



Highlights

Production quality: Expect the best here, folks. Games are rarely this fine in quality. While most recent casual games are like McDonald's or Jack in the Box in quality, Luxor: Quest for the Afterlife is
like fine dining.

The graphics are all very shiny and professional. The soundtrack, by Somatone, is very nice, as usual. The controls are easy, the physics are slick, and every element of the game is delivered with care. This is the sort of game I look for, and enjoy sharing with you.


Unlimited lives: One of the things I don't like about the Luxor games prior to Luxor 3 is that you have a limited number of lives, and you lose one each time you fail a level. To my delight, they removed this unnecessarily stressful feature for Luxor 3 and Luxor: Quest for the Afterlife.

Features: There is lot to this game. You travel to many cities, with the difficulty always growing. But even on Hard difficulty, the game isn't too challenging for practiced marble shooters. As you travel around, you find pieces of artifacts. These artifacts, once completed, offer you some in-game benefit.

The game also has, as I mentioned before, a puzzle mode that you can unlock, as well as an Insane difficulty. There is a treasure room, where you earn rewards for feats of marble-popping skill. There are many power-up upgrades to purchase in the store, as in Luxor 3.

There are some great levels in this game, and as you progress, more new scenes show up. Some levels are more challenging than others, while other are more beautiful, or have interesting marble paths.


There are a few level modes as well, including:
  • Classic: Standard level where you have to completely destroy a set number of marble chains.
  • Statues: Marble chains go back and forth, slowly heading for the exit at the bottom of the screen. Statues pop up to impede the marble chains, shortening their path. You can destroy the statues.
  • Swarm: A whole bunch of short chains race in and try to overwhelm you. You have to be quick.
  • Crossing the Nile: The one chain you need to destroy travels around in a circle on the other side of a river. But there are several long chains of marbles floating back and forth on the river, blocking your line of sight to the other side. You have to break gaps in the river chains to reach your target on the other side.
  • Battle: This is a new mode. When you track down a thief in the story, you have to fight him. Another marble shooter shows up on the top of the screen and you both try to quickly complete as many breaks as you can. Whoever is most successful, wins.

The map. Each blue dot is a level. Completed artifacts appear at the bottom.

Momentum: The game keeps you playing. I found it really hard to get up from the computer. The game beckons me to play "just one more" - you know the feeling. There is something so inherently fun about the mechanics of this game. And the more fun, the better the game.



Suitable for the family?

My kids watched me play some of the time. My son especially liked when I made a big deal out of catching good power-up drops. I can't think of anything that would frighten or disturb children. I didn't watch all of the story scenes, admittedly, so I can't comment thoroughly on the content. But I do know that the story involves Egyptian deities and theories of the afterlife, if that bothers you.



Luxor history

Here is the entire list of Luxor marble games, just so you can see the history leading up to Quest for the Afterlife.
  1. Luxor
  2. Luxor Amun Rising
  3. Luxor 2
  4. Luxor 3 (This is where the series turned awesome.)
  5. Luxor: Quest for the Afterlife
And now they have a Bundle Pack, which includes both Luxor and Luxor Amun Rising. If you want to play these early games, save money by buying the package.

If you like HOGs (difficult ones!), you might like to try Luxor Adventures, and if you're a mahjong fan, why not check out Luxor Mahjong?




The family man's final ruling

I'm amazed with this game, as I was with Luxor 3. It makes shooting marbles feel like something significant and important, as if you're part of something big. I don't know how those geniuses at Mumbo Jumbo do it. It's like magic.

The game is dripping with ancient Egyptian theme (romanticized as it may be). The music is as good as it gets, and very fitting. The sounds and sights are excellent. Everything is polished and shiny to a high degree.

Let me also mention that you'll get plenty of game hours out of this. I think the game clock was at something like 8 hours when I finished playing through story and puzzle modes. Most newer casual games can't boast that kind of play time. And each hour was fun.

If you like marble popping at all, you won't find a better product, friends.



You'll like the game if...

  • You like a fantastical Ancient Egypt theme
  • You like quick action-packed gameplay
  • You like bashing marbles and catching drops
  • You are hungry for a high quality production

You won't like the game if...

  • You don't like shooting marbles


My rating:

If you want to play Luxor: Quest for the Afterlife, click below:



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