Back for the Fifth Time
Luxor proved to be a hit when it was released in 2005. Featuring a revamped version of the gameplay found in Zuma, and giving it an ancient Egyptian vibe, it was a worthy addition to the casual gaming market. A series was born, sequels were spawned, and now we have reached the fifth edition, aptly titled 5th Passage. Does it continue the legacy of its predecessors? Or is it about time to put the old formula in the tomb along with the pharaohs of yore? Read on.
Not Much of a Yarn to Spin
An age of prosperity has set upon Egypt. After Osiris and Isis united the divided land, they bore a son, Horus. Osiris is now stepping down from his position in the pantheon, and allowing his son to take his place. But his old enemy, Set, has been gathering strength and waiting for the opportune moment to renew the age old conflict with his enemies. And it is in this time of transition that he strikes! As one of Horus’ chosen, it’s up to you to defend Egypt against Set.
That’s not a synopsis, that’s pretty much the entire story, told entirely through a slapdash block of text at the beginning of the game. One has to wonder why the developers even bothered with it, because it doesn’t even work too well as an excuse plot. At no point is it explained how exactly a bunch of spheres pushed along by a cute but menacing scarab relates to an evil god ravaging the land, but there you go. As a puzzle game, the story isn’t really important, but those who enjoyed that element in the previous Luxor titles may be a little disappointed by this “effort.”
At Least it Looks Nice
The graphics of 5th Passage may not compare to what you’ll find in a big budget title, but they are still very pretty. They’re crisp, clear and colorful, as should be expected from the Egyptian aesthetics. Each level is ornamented with many detailed backgrounds that are never repeated, so things usually feel fresh on that front. The stone spheres come in a nice variety of colors and patterns that are highly detailed despite the simplicity of their shapes, and are still visually distinct from one another, making matching them a breeze. Gems sparkle with a dazzling light as the fall, waiting to be grabbed up in your greedy hands.
But even cooler are some of the animated effects of the many power-ups you’ll inevitably abuse. The lightning bolt sends a long shock of electricity upward to incinerate spheres, while the scorpion will rapidly crawl along the screen destroying them as violently as you would imagine! Watching the fairly benign “destruction” is almost as fun as causing it.
The music, meanwhile, is incredibly catchy, though that does not always work in its favor. There just aren’t quite as many tunes as there should have been, and things can get pretty repetitive after playing for a while. Thankfully, there is an option to mute it if it ever gets to that point, so it can become a non-issue.
So What is Luxor?
If you’re unfamiliar with Luxor, you could say it’s kind of like a mishmash of Bejeweled and Centipede. A chain of variously colored spheres trail all over the screen in a twisty a pre-made pattern, snaking their way over to your pyramid. You control a shooter that fires spheres. The object of the game is to shoot the spheres into the oncoming chain in a way so that at least three will match, destroying them. Fail to eliminate them before they reach your pyramid, and it’s the afterlife for you! Or at least, the “retry level” screen.
It’s a simple game in concept, but much tougher in practice. Aim and proper timing is important, as any misfired shots will only make the chain longer. Depending on which direction the chain is moving, ideal areas to aim for can be blocked temporarily as well. The game also has a rather sneaky habit of inserting several different chains onto the screen at once; nothing gets the blood pumping more than struggling to finish off a chain that’s mere inches away from the end goal while also trying to keep the second one from catching up.
All New Powers
Of course, anyone who has played Luxor also knows that matching is only half the fun. The other is in the power ups, which make your job of destroying the spheres that much easier and more…explosive. These include old favorites like the lightning bolt, which destroys everything it touches in a straight line, the fireball that destroys whatever gets caught in its radius, and the Snake that slows down the chain’s movement.
But 5th Passage also introduces some brand new and especially exotic powers! One allows you to shoot two orbs simultaneously, and another especially rare and potent one, creates a black hole that eliminates every sphere on the screen instantly! These add a nice bit of variety and strategy to the mix, especially as some powers can be stored for later use in the level.
New Modes of Play
If the “story-based” Adventure mode isn’t enough, 5th Passage also introduces Blast Mode. This is a time attack game, where you’re given two minutes to clear out as many spheres as possible in a level of your choosing, and rack up a high score. It’s a pretty simple arcade game, but it nevertheless encourages a different style of play than is usual in Luxor, and like the base game, is very fun.
And if the new isn’t exactly doing it for you, you can always try some of the old. Classic mode is basically a selection of the most popular levels from the previous games. It’s not a huge addition, especially if you already have those, but it can be a nice feature if 5th Passage is your first time delving into Luxor, letting you sample some of what the past had to offer.
More of the Same
It should go without saying that this formula is wildly addictive. Watching spheres blow up never gets old. But anyone who’s played the previous Luxors will instantly know what to expect here, which is perhaps 5th Passage’s biggest issue; it’s not all the different from what the series has offered before. The new additions are nice, sure, but they’re not really enough to justify buying the same old package with a new coat of paint.
Conclusion - The Best Luxor Game Yet
In the end, no, Luxor: 5th Passage doesn’t bring a whole lot of new things to the table. Just a handful of never before seen power-ups, a new game mode, and that’s it. However, don’t let that distract you from the fact that the gameplay is still as strong as ever. 5th Passage is, for the time being, the definitive iteration of Luxor, and newcomers to the series will find plenty to enjoy here.
Review by David Galvin
Dave Galvin is a freelance writer and avid gamer. Somehow, he managed to find a way to combine the two passions.
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