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Luxor: The Wrath of Set

A Puzzler Set in Egypt

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Luxor PSP Screenshot

Luxor PSP Screenshot

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I'm always happy to see more good puzzlers for my favorite portable gaming device, so I was delighted to find out that Luxor was going to appear on the PSP. I'm not sure how different Wrath of Set is from other versions of Luxor in the details, but overall it's a great translation to the portable platform.

Casual Port

I may not be technically correct in calling Luxor: Wrath of Set a port; for all I know it might have been completely reconstructed from the ground up. But the game has the same look as the PC versions, the same sounds, and the same simple but captivating gameplay.

I was worried, when I first heard that there would be a Luxor game for PSP, that the PSP's sometimes touchy controls would make playing the game frustrating. After all, there's a big difference between clicking a mouse where you want to shoot and aiming with an analog stick. It's why some gamers never make the switch from PC to console or vice versa. I needn't have fretted, though. The PSP version handles perfectly smoothly. Granted, I sometimes had trouble aiming in the later levels when things start happening more quickly, but that was the case when I played the PC version, too -- it was result of the increased tension and not a problem with the controls.

Wrath of Set is such a perfect conversion to a new platform that gamers who've played one version should have no difficulty at all switching to the other. If you've ever wished you could take Luxor with you on your daily commute, your wish has been granted (just don't try to play on your way to work if you're the one driving; that's never a good idea).

Play Like an Egyptian

As I mentioned, I was worried about how the controls for this game would work on the PSP. The mechanics are pretty simple -- you need to be able to move side to side to aim, shoot, and switch colored balls.

Movement is taken care of by either the d-pad or the analog stick, so the player can try both and decide which suits them best. Firing is done with the X button and switching balls with the circle button. The player can also increase or decrease the speed of movement with the shoulder buttons and pause the game with the start button. In other words, gameplay is simple and intuitive.

This simplicity is the game's strength. Anyone can pick it up and begin playing immediately, and if the game proves too difficult or too easy, there are three levels of difficulty to choose from. But there are also some added elements to add to the depth of play. There are ankh coins to collect, which will give added lives once enough have accumulated. Catch the gems that fall as each group of balls are eliminated and get bonus points. Catch power-ups and get special abilities like a lightning ball or a ball that can be any color you need.

Added to that are a couple of different play modes. You can play through in Story Mode, or try Endless Tomb to practice or to see how long you can stay alive.

Hieroglyphics

The Egyptian theme of this game is obvious in its graphics. The mechanism that fires the balls is shaped like a winged scarab and the playing boards have various Egyptian-inspired decorations. The often desert-hued backgrounds make a nice setting for the brightly-colored balls and shining gold and jewel-toned power-ups.

Though the backgrounds, or gameboards, of each level are mostly static and only the rolling balls and the scarab really move much, the beautiful design means that Luxor is always a visual feast. Perhaps the graphics can't compare to some of the latest all-3-D games full of movement and distraction, but then putting graphics like that in a game like this would be ridiculous.

Luxor: The Wrath of Set is simply a gorgeously designed game, visually.

Audio Archaeology

Like the graphics, the sounds of Luxor have a simple elegance. I don't know how historically accurate the music is, but it certainly has an Egyptian feel that complements the game and is pleasant to listen to and not distracting.

The sound effects were created to provide audio clues for the game and not just as sounds to go with the action. For example, you can tell without looking when you've caught an ankh, and the sounds become more urgent if the balls you are meant to destroy get too close to the end. The player can therefore keep their eyes on the progression of the balls and where they need to aim, and not have to keep looking to see how many more balls need to be destroyed before they stop coming, or how close they are to dying.

For what it is -- a simple, good-looking, pick-up-and-play puzzler -- Luxor approaches perfection. I can easily see myself digging this game out years from now to see if I'm still any good at it.

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