Just as the warmth of the sun on a summer's day never grows old, the marble-popping gameplay of Luxor: Amun Rising HD has a familiar energising quality.
It's easy to understand why: it's fast-moving, challenging, colourful, and damn fun.
Despite the lack of major changes from previous versions, this highly polished new instalment is an obvious improvement.
By fine-tuning the franchise's already fantastic core gameplay design and layering new features such as a level progress gauge and new scorpion power-up, Luxor: Amun Rising HD shines brightest among its many competitors.Sun god shining
Of course, it comes as little surprise that this iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad universal sequel is so enjoyable. The concept is straightforward but totally engrossing: as a line of marbles rolls down a twisted path, you pop them out of existence by shooting a single coloured marble from the base of the screen to match three or more of the same colour.
Match-three puzzle mechanics make the game easy to learn, but the constant pressure of a moving line of marbles adds challenge. The action heats up even more with power-ups earned whenever you succeed in popping three consecutive sets of marbles.
Along with staples like the ability to stop and slow down the line, there are more exotic power-ups such as the lightning bolt that fries all marbles in a vertical column. The new scorpion power-up sends a hungry arachnid scuttling across the screen to eat up marbles at the end of the line.
So good you'll lose your marbles
Admittedly, introducing a new power-up and a smattering of gorgeously rendered stages gives the game a selling point, but the reason to buy this must-have is the insane polish and attention paid to detail. Yes, the graphics are great and the scorpion power-up rocks, but it's all about the feel of the game.
There's no doubt in my mind that Luxor: Amun Rising HD is faster and more responsive than any of the marble-poppers available on iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad to date.
The physics are convincing - balls roll with momentum that can be felt, whipping back for combos and racing forward when played on the eye-opening hard difficulty - and the controls are spot-on.
It's the little things
Little details abound, such as the inclusion of a progress gauge at the top of the screen that informs you of how much of the level remains. Game Center integration brings leaderboards and achievements, although the latter could have been designed more thoughtfully so as to encourage replay.
The game's pulled-back camera also deserves criticism, though it's a minor flaw worth putting up with when you consider the gains made in gameplay and graphics.Luxor: Amun Rising HD comes highly recommended.