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Publisher: MacPlay    Genre: Arcade
Min OS X: 10.2.8    CPU: G3 @ 400 MHz    RAM: 128 MB    Graphics: 16 MB VRAM

July 13, 2005 | Ryan Fritsch

Click to enlarge
Fresh from the minds at Mumbo Jumbo is Luxor, an Egyptian-themed arcade puzzler stuck somewhere between Breakout and Bejeweled. As a series of colored balls roll down a track, you take aim from the bottom of the screen with a sliding ball shooter to make matches, which are then removed from the board. By stacking strings of colors that collapse upon each other, it is possible to execute combos, rack up bonus points, and feel the satisfaction of completeness and release.

Rather like the over-world map in Aki Mahjong from Ambrosia Software, each successfully completed game is but one step in a long journey. To where, I'm not sure. On the game map it is simply labeled "Philae," but I like to imagine it is something more exotic: high tea with Osiris? The erasure of all earthly desire? A fancy "Yuo are Teh Winnar!!!!" splash screen? Some other, more enjoyable game?

I'll never know because, frankly, Luxor is rather boring. Gameplay is spiced up with bonus powers such as a kaleidoscope ball, a lightning gun, a direction reverser, and other such gameplay elements as will help you clear the board. Differing tracks feature switch-backs and underpasses that will briefly obscure certain shots or combos, as well, but there are no track switches to hit, no accelerators to play with, no loops to get trapped in. On the whole, the balls keep rolling along their linear track, and you keep shooting. It was honestly more entertaining to read the evocative market-speak on the box than play the game ("use the mystical winged scarab to shoot magical spheres...or all of Egypt is doomed!").

Difficulty is slooooowly increased by shortening the tracks, adding more colors to the ball train, and increasing the deployment rate. But overall the game feels quite tightly controlled, with little variation or chance. It's almost set up so that you can't fail. Where there are no guts, there is no glory.

Presumably, replay is encouraged by the keeping of per-level and aggregate high-scores as you stumble along through the repetitive "88 mind-blowing levels." But again, with little to differentiate one level from another, score keeping is almost moot. And with no online score keeping, you can't even see how you stack up against other players.

These design oversights are all the more contemptible given that Luxor is based on PopCap Games' Zuma, a far more enjoyable take on the concept, and freely playable on the web (though the premium download version is PC only). Zuma keeps the game fresh and entertaining with more whimsical track design and by occasionally repositioning its 360 degree ball shooter. Its a subtle difference on paper, but it has a huge impact on the challenge and enjoyability of gameplay.

There are a few more practical design oversights to consider too. Luxor crashed for me when switching between fullscreen and windowed mode. Once in window mode, it is really easy to click outside the window, which instantly pauses the game. This frequently interrupted my gameplay. And the fact that the cursor is left visible at all is annoying and pointless since you only shoot straight up. If the cursor must be visible, at least skin it to suit the game so I don't think I'm playing a word processor.

If you are a big fan of very simple puzzlers like Bejeweled, Luxor might have a place on your hard drive. But there is little that is left to the imagination with Luxor, other than why it costs $20. With other more interesting and creative puzzle games available as shareware on the internet, you'll really have to like mystical balls and winged scarabs to make this game worthwhile.

• Nice graphics and sound effects
• Smooth animation
• Simple gameplay
• 1,000's of colored balls, rolling, rolling, rolling

• Repetitive gameplay with little depth
• Design annoyances

Publisher: MacPlay
Buy Luxor now at


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