By Eric Pankoke on Fri, 05/11/2012
Because of the Luxor franchise, one of my favorite iOS marble poppers was pulled from the App Store. A couple of years have passed and I’ve apparently forgotten my mental ban of the company that publishes the games, because here I am reviewing the latest installment of this long running series. Thankfully the game has gotten substantially better than the first go around, so I guess I’ll let bygones be bygones (especially since the game I liked will probably never see the light of day again). I’m still not sure I like this quite as much as my current favorite in the genre, Sparkle, but it certainly is a fun and frantic romp.
If you’re not familiar with the genre, basically marble poppers are match three games where the objects to match usually follow a track and the item you use to add matching marbles to the mix is some sort of launcher. You’ll get so many groups of objects that you must clear before they arrive at the ending point of the track. If you clear them all you are victorious and move on to the next level, otherwise you lose a life or the game if all your lives are gone. Luxor Evolved follows this paradigm for the most part, but there are a few interesting twists that make it stand out from the crowd.
Even the “standard” levels feel more than standard. Dual endpoints, warps that have the groups jumping from one side of the board to another and plenty of curves make for some interesting level designs. There are some levels that simply require you to last for a given amount of time instead of clearing the board. Certain bonus levels seem more like a game of Centipede because instead of firing marbles you have permanent use of the missile power-up and you just keep blasting everything that gets in your path. The best, however, are the boss levels. Not only do you have to take care of groups of marbles on tracks, but there is an enemy at the top of the screen that also requires some matching expertise to eliminate. The boss battles are as intense as many scrolling shooters that I’ve played in the past.
There are apparently 20 different power ups you can collect, though they are never really enumerated as you are playing, so you may not be aware of all the ones that exist. They seem to be your pretty standard fare like slow, reverse, wild card and so on. There are 3 power ups, however, that you must fill energy bars for. Once energized, they will transform your launcher and do some hefty damage for a short period of time. You start off with a certain number of lives, and should a group of marbles reach their destination you’ll lose one. When all lives are gone the game is over, though you can slowly build lives back up by collecting hearts that fall from making matches.
To move your launcher you swipe your finger, and you can choose to have this be absolute movement (your finger right on top of the launcher) or relative movement (launcher moves in direction of swipe, but finger can be elsewhere on screen). I find the relative movement a bit better, but both suffer when you hit the edges of the screen. To fire a marble you can tap the screen or simply release your finger from dragging. Again neither option is flawless, but I find the tapping method a lot less responsive. While the controls are certainly functional, I think they need to be tightened up a bit to meet the need of some of the more demanding levels.
The visuals are wonderful. The vector style imagery and neon colors give the game a “Geometry Wars on steroids” look. There are plenty of particle explosions to boot, complete with a Matrix style slow-down for a second from time to time (to be nice I’ll assume it’s intentional at the moment). My only complaint is that sometimes it gets to be too much and it’s hard to tell what’s going on. The music is very well done and does a wonderful job of punctuating the intense action on some of the levels. Plus there’s usually some cool background stuff going on to coincide with the tunes.
On the whole I’m quite impressed with Luxor Evolved HD. The level designs can be downright devious, the boss battles are challenging yet engaging, and the audio and visual elements work well together to create quite a flashy atmosphere. I do hope they attempt to tweak the controls, though, as they are starting to get on my nerves a bit. Thankfully I’ve played games with much worse maneuvering, and in the end Luxor Evolved is more than worth the bit of extra effort required to get the launcher to behave just like I want.
Overall Score: 8/10
App Store Link
This game was reviewed on an iPad 2 running iOS 5.0.1