Some combinations are hard to beat. For example, the Beach Boys, Mulder and Scully, the Three Stooges, Simon and Garfunkel, Kirk and Spock, and last but not least, Napoleon Dynamite and Pedro.
Okay, you get the idea. But, another great combination is mummies and match-three, and you’ll find it in Stones of Khufu.
Things are rotten in Egypt. In the case of the Pharaoh and his children, Amun and Amar, they’re rotting. Tragically, the evil high priest Khufu ordered the royal family’s murder so he could seize control. Now, the young brother and sister have returned, but in mummified form, to rediscover their identities and right the wrongs committed against them. Your task is to aid them in their mission. Successfully unravel a series of puzzles and you’ll bring these siblings back to life and thwart the plans of the foul Khufu.
Its tale unfolding in a series of story panels, Stones of Khufu takes you through 40 levels of brainteasers as you assist the young, linen-wrapped duo. A progressive learning curve eases you into play, but quick reflexes and a sharp mind serve best as you advance in this combo-creating diversion. Nevertheless, controls are simple and easy to learn even for the youngest players.
The object, as with all match-three games, is to create combos comprised of three or more objects of the same color. In this case, stones that you slide together with Amun’s and Amar’s help. What’s unique is that you have two opposing stones to slide simultaneously, from the sides or top and bottom of the playfield. To further mix things up, stone colors and combinations continually change. Plus, some blocks are already on the playfield when you commence and others are added during play.
At the start of each level, your two mummified friends stand ready to assist. Using the left mouse button, you direct them to slide stones onto the playfield grid so they meet or butt up against other stones. The right button causes Amun and Amar to swap them (tossing the stones to each other), something you’ll need to do quite frequently. Then, every few seconds, a beam of light passes over the playfield and the combinations you’ve made vanish in a pyrotechnic flash.
Scoring is basic. The larger the combinations, the more points received. You’re also awarded points for each open tile at the end of a level, clearing the grid before time runs out and totally clearing the playfield. The goal, however, is not specifically to remove all the stones from play, but rather to create a set number of combos per level within a given time frame. Reach that goal and you advance. Fail and you start the level over again.
Uniquely, there are no real “power-ups” in Stones of Khufu. Instead, you have special bonuses. Colored gems appear on the grid during play. When you combine them with stones of the same color, you receive an added bonus. The same is true with glowing tiles. Match them with combos of the same color and you’ll reap the rewards.
Obstacles, conversely, do make an appearance. Included are beetles that cause stones to bounce off their shells and land elsewhere on the grid (though, if they’re next to a stone you can squash them), unmovable pillars that limit your ability to slide stones together and tornadoes that churn across the playfield to mix things up a bit.
So, what causes Stones of Khufu to stand out from so many dry bones in a crowded genre? It’s not really any one thing. What makes this game so compelling is the overall experience. Its delicacies are served up in the form of great graphics, an epic musical score (reminiscent of Stargate), a simple yet well-written story, oodles of atmosphere and addictive game play. It’s a game that simply envelopes you.
Is there any parched land amid this oasis? Well, yes. Only one mode of play is provided and it doesn’t take long to burn through all 40 levels. Depth is also a bit lacking when compared to the competition. A few extra bonuses and obstacles would be a welcome addition. Moreover, there’s no windowed mode available, just full screen. But, these are small failings given the total experience.
Consequently, when the last boulder slides into place and the story draws to a close, Stones of Khufu gets a big “thumbs up” even if it’s a boney one. It lacks the depth of others in its genre, but the journey is epic from start to finish. It’s definitely a two-hump camel.