Luxor: The Wrath of Set is an ancient Egyptian take on the action puzzle genre, a genre that counts among it such other games as Zuma Deluxe and Ballistic. What's here is mostly a no-frills port of the year-and-a-half-old PC game Luxor, which will be seeing a sequel for the PC in less than a month. If you're crossing the Sahara with only PSP puzzle games to keep you entertained, you might as well bring along Luxor, assuming the camel can bear the weight of one more UMD. But thanks to a lackluster presentation and gameplay that doesn't stay interesting for long, you probably won't be busting it out until you've worked your way through the PSP's other great puzzle games--or until you're suffering from heatstroke.
Instead of using a funky space cannon or an even funkier mystical frog, you'll be launching croquet balls with a gold-winged scarab that scrolls back and forth along the bottom of the screen, a la Breakout or Arkanoid. As the cavalcade of colored balls follow the infidel's path toward pyramid defilation and, presumably, Set's wrath, it'll be your job to bust them up by linking three or more like-colored balls. Delivering multiple sets of evil little balls into the maw of Ammit yields score multipliers, as well as power-ups that range from speeding up your shots to exploding all the balls of one color. To help keep these multipliers accruing, you'll be able to switch to, and fire the ball in your queue. Combos and chains will speed up the completion meter at the bottom of the screen, and once it's full, you'll be advanced to the next stage--that is, once you've blasted the last of the balls already in play. If you're unable to keep up with the rolling caravan, Set will strongly disapprove and you'll be subjected to the much-dreaded "try again" screen. However, you only have a limited amount of tries, measured by how many gold coins you catch during the levels. Running out of retries means you'll have to start the chapter you were working on completely over, which can be a real pain in Set's caboose when the later stages get faster and tougher.
Even though there are around 50 different maps for more than 120 levels, the gameplay isn't as varied as you might think. Though you'll occasionally run up against a uniquely convoluted and labyrinthine map, the developer didn't take many chances with the formula and stuck with a mostly side-to-side route. What ends up happening is that, even though a map technically looks different, there's no tangible difference between it and many of the others. Some of these maps will have a few obstacles or dual routes to contend with, but they're never really much of an issue until the later stages. Instead, challenge is mostly derived from the rate at which the balls flow, as well as a more thorough jumbling of the balls. And aside from a survival mode that's mostly more of the same, there isn't much else to this package. Having some kind of competitive or cooperative multiplayer would have been nice to extend the value here.
Luxor's presentation is fairly bare-bones, offering just enough to give you no serious qualms. Graphically, the game looks clean and the colors are vibrant, but there's not much variety to the backgrounds, many of the color schemes are as repetitive as the maps you'll play on, and there are no flashy effects to distract you from chucking balls at other balls. Likewise, the game's audio isn't particularly entertaining, but you at least won't feel the compulsive urge to shut it off.
The PSP is home to several great puzzle games, not the least of which being Lumines, Mercury Meltdown, and Exit, and Luxor definitely doesn't hold a candle to any of those as far as fun, style, or replayability is concerned. At 30 bucks it's also a bit pricey for the amount of content you're getting, especially in light of there being no multiplayer modes to keep the game fresh. But Luxor will probably offer you a few hours of fun, so if you've already worked your way through the PSP's other, much better puzzle games and genuinely have nothing better to spend $30 on, you could do worse than picking this one up.