If you’ve been on Live Arcade for a while now, chances are you’ve played Zuma - if you don't remember, it's the one with the frog projectile-vomiting colored spheres. And if you haven’t…well, you should. It’s one of the most engaging puzzlers on the service. And now Luxor 2 has pretty much beaten it in every way.
The goal in Luxor 2 is the same as in Zuma; fire jewels (or balls; whatever they are) from your launcher into in a twisting line of rainbow-hued balls that’s slowly inching its way to the goal. Get three or more in a row of the same color, and they vanish. Eliminate all the jewels before they reach the goal, and you win.
The main reason Luxor 2 is a better game lies in the controls - specifically, the aiming. In Zuma, your frog-shaped launcher fires in 360 directions - wherever you point the analog stick. But zeroing in on your target can be tricky. In Luxor 2, you slide your launcher from left to right across the bottom of the screen and only fire upward, and an arrow-shaped reticule tells you what color jewel you have loaded and where your shot will strike. It’s a vastly more manageable, precise way of targeting, and it's a huge improvement, not dumbed-down training wheels.
Other improvements include better power-ups and pick-ups. Perform an amazing chain and jewels or powers will fall to the bottom of the screen. Collect them for points, or to do things like destroy whole segments of balls; get a multi-colored “wild card” ball; or just fire swords at your targets to destroy them outright (there's a 360-exclusive mode devoted to this variation, actually).
Finally, one very nice feature that Zuma was sorely lacking is the ability to truly continue your game of Luxor should you have to stop midway through. In Zuma, saving your game simply meant you could re-start at whatever level you were on, but with a score that was reset to zero. In Luxor 2, saving your game means you get to restart exactly where you stopped, score and all. This should make high-score junkies very happy.
It should be said that Luxor 2 still sits squarely in the “casual game” space. But it’s every bit as addictive as Zuma, and fans of that game will appreciate a product that feels slightly better produced in just about every way while retaining the same great puzzle action they love.