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Luxor 2

Inexorable balls.

Luxor is a city in Upper Egypt. It's also one of those casual games available on the internet, that also mustered a release in the shops and on the PSP. Now it has a sequel that's available on Xbox Live. Having played through it though, it's difficult to see why somebody thought such a sequel would be necessary. It's even more difficult to see why someone thought such a sequel would be suited to Xbox Live (except for the fact that the associated fanfare when it went up would shift a few more micropayments). Luxor 2's natural habitat is the office, tucked away in a window that can be handily alt-tabbed away when a colleague strays too close. It might be perfect for soaking up the hours in the office, but devoting your free time to it just feels wrong.

It's basically the same game as the original Luxor, which was the same game as Zuma, which was the same game as Puzz Loop, which means it's a bit like Bust-A-Move/Puzzle Bobble but different. You shoot coloured balls at a snaking line of other coloured balls in order to make those coloured balls disappear before they go too far. Firing off a coloured ball to make a cluster of three or more coloured balls will make those coloured balls disappear, and as they disappear they might create a chain effect of other clusters of disappearing coloured balls - a 'combo', if you will. Linking together combos produces various sorts of power-up, which variously freeze or slow the advance of the coloured balls, or randomly destroy some of them. And occasionally some treasure will fall down the screen to grant you more points or extra lives.

Luxor is served by Luxor International Airport.

The main difference between this and Zuma is that the shooting thingie (or 'mystical winged scarab' as the press release puts it) whizzes along the bottom of the screen instead of rotating in the middle. Annoyingly, this means that whenever your Xbox decides to tell you that one of your friends has just joined you online, you can't see what coloured ball it is your thingie is firing. Equally annoyingly, pressing the Left Stick for too long will make your mystical winged scarab whizz too fast. And it's not always easy to interpret the game's backgrounds. The game's balls snake inexorably around various different maps, looping over and under various obstacles, but it's not always easy to tell what they're going to go under and what they're going to go over. Consequently, it's not always easy to tell where your coloured balls are going to end up when you fire them off.

Luxor is a popular holiday destination, both in its own right and as a starting or finishing point for Nile cruises.

The main part of the game sees a seemingly-never-ending series of these maps tied together into an Adventure mode. What that means is that each map is prefaced by a little graphic showing your progress along the Nile, and every so often your progress is punctuated by an occasional bonus round in which you fire daggers instead of balls (which means it feels more like a rudimentary Galaga clone). And if you didn't know that the Nile is very long before you played Luxor 2, boy will you know it by the time you've finished it. As the Adventure mode progresses, the game's difficulty increases: the use of perspective in some maps makes the game's snaking balls appear smaller, and more complicated maps introduce more going over and under. At certain points newly coloured balls are introduced, and they start to move more quickly.

Luxor isn’t as good when you can’t alt-tab it out of sight.

But the chief difficulty is simply sustaining your interest. It's boring and easy, and it takes too long. It takes too long to play through individual levels because they can take up to ten minutes to play through with little variation over those ten minutes. It's just inexorably snaking balls. And it takes too long to play through the whole Adventure mode because the maps start to repeat themselves after a tiny fraction of the way, and it doesn't start to get remotely difficult until after abut six or seven hours in. Or you can choose a higher difficulty level and just get frustrated when, after ten minutes of staring at snaking balls, you have to start again.

There are other modes of play: Survival mode, which takes place over a single map, or Pharaoh's Challenge, which is basically the Galaga clone from the Adventure mode's bonus rounds. But ultimately Luxor 2 isn't a game that tests your skill, or your intellect; it's a game that tests how much time you've got on your hands. Taken out of its native habitat it loses its sense of purpose. It's a game which just takes up some of your life instead of adding anything to it.

4 / 10

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Luxor 2

Xbox 360, PC

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About the Author

Dave McCarthy