Roll like an Egyptian
In a recent survey conducted about casual gamers, 96% said that their biggest fear in the world were balls, most vicious when grouped together with various different colours and doing the conga around a player. It’s because of these results that primary antagonists in casual games fail to be masochistic universally feared types, but take the form of inanimate objects, and Luxor 2 doesn’t feel the need to buck the trend.
Luxor 2 spawns on the Xbox Live Arcade as practically a direct clone to Popcap’s Zuma. Long lines of coloured balls slowly make their way to a safe house, and to prevent imminent rolling danger you must fire coloured balls at corresponding coloured balls in order to make them vanish. This should be the part where I tear into it for practically plagiarising Zuma, but when it comes to the casual game market, you can practically find hundreds of flash emulators on the internet following the same trends Popcap have set, so I’ll let this one slide. I also didn’t like Zuma that much, so I’ll let them fight it out. Zuma for a matter of pride, Luxor 2 to shrug the ‘evil twin’ label off and me to upgrade my ego from the status of ‘fragile’.
Not everything is exactly the same, however. Luxor 2 sets itself in the backdrop of Ancient Egypt and there are no stone frogs in sight. Instead of taking to the centre and being surrounded, players scroll horizontally across the bottom of the screen, scanning the area for spheres to destroy. Although proving to be easier than it’s frog-based rival, it also proves to be a lot more enjoyable. With the ability to scoop up power-ups dropped by lucky balls pro-actively, Luxor 2 successfully manages to keep your attention away from the fact that you’ve lost all track of time due to the feeble activity of flicking balls about.
If you’re a ball connoisseur, it receives my highest recommendation of 2009.
Production values are also surprisingly impressive for that of a simple casual title. Levels are well detailed, show imagination and go beyond that of simply forcing you to clear out gutter after gutter of spheres. Although it’s not the layout you’ll be focusing on during gameplay, it can provide some challenging moments later on in the game, even on easy.
It seems that developers Mumbo Jumbo regard the whole casual playing market as a frightening bunch of socially deprived loners and so no multi-player support is offered, but it’s all swings and roundabouts for hermits as four single player modes are offered in compensation and a silver lining for the lonely. Survival sees how long a player can keep off a swarm of balls, Practice mode serves the purpose of creating putting professionals from the mould of mere mortals and ‘Pharaohs Challenge’…which gives you the same objective as survival, except elevates the playing field in your favour by allowing you to dish out knives. Adventure mode however takes pride of place, bragging a journey through Ancient Egypt and 88 levels.
Unfortunately Luxor 2 skips past any notable landmarks of mere interest and takes you on a exhausting and arduous trek through the desert, and the promise of 88 levels feels like a slight scam. The imaginative levels begin to repeat themselves a quarter of the way through and the aforementioned positivity for level design begins to fall apart at the seams. Early on this becomes a pain, but when you come to the realisation that this will continue for around 6 hours with the only reward at the end being an achievement, patience begins to dwindle.
Perhaps this is my inner cynic beating down an inconspicuous ‘casual’ tumour, but the promise of a huge amount of levels causes a shot in the foot which drags down the gameplay aspect of things as well. I ended up giving up on Luxor 2 not because it was unenjoyable, but simply because it was doing too much to impress me in terms of length. Adventure mode should have been shortened and a better range of challenges should have been added in its place. The whole experience should be more rewarding, and should do more than simply give you a few easy achievements and a new rank every million or so points. I don’t feel that odd amounts of Gamerscore and rank of ‘Donkey Washer’ are particularly worth the amount of time and effort it asks players to invest in. It simply isn’t addictive enough.
It’s fair to say that those who liked Zuma will perhaps like this even more unless there’s some sort of ‘West Side Story’ style war raging between the two. It is double the price, however, which may put a few people off and head for the cheaper alternative just for the sake of the gameplay, but hell, if you’re a ball connoisseur, it receives my highest recommendation of 2009.
The Bad: Extended gameplay only due to the repetition of levels, Firing platform is too quick to make accurate shots in tense scenarios, Drags on somewhat
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