How do you improve on one of the hottest casual games of our time?

If you’re MumboJumbo – the makers of the incredibly popular Luxor puzzler, which has been downloaded more than 40 million times since its 2005 debut – you create a sequel that’s bigger, better and more beautiful.

Luxor 2 is the stellar follow-up to the hit game, due out on October 10 (mark your calendar, kids!).

The Gamezebo staff was granted an exclusive sneak peek at what to expect – and the good news is the game will likely satiate both Luxor lovers and newbie gamers alike.

In case you’ve never played the original game, the premise involves chains of colored orbs that snake out onto the screen, and they follow a specific path that varies from level to level. You must aim and shoot with a mystical winged scarab – which houses different colored spheres, too — so that they touch same-colored spheres; when three or more touch (one of which must be your own), they explode. The goal is to clear all the chains before they snake all the way to the pyramid at the end of the level.

Completing these levels also gets more challenging as the spheres move faster, new colors are introduced and spheres take trickier paths including over bridges and through tunnels that make them temporarily inaccessible.

If you don’t want the colored sphere you’ve presented with – say you’d prefer a blue or green orb instead of a red one — you can right-mouse click and swap it for the succeeding one, which may or may not help you out.

Power-ups fall from the screen when players perform well, which must be caught before they hit the ground, and then used to help clear the level. More on these bonuses in a moment…

Finally, Luxor, as its name suggests, also weaves in an Egyptian theme with plenty of desert landscapes, pyramids, hieroglyphs, ancient temples, mummies and the like.

So, what’s the deal with Luxor 2, you’re asking? How much time do you have?

First and foremost, players will be able to embark on a beautiful voyage throughout the ancient land of Egypt and battle Set through 88 brand-new levels. This main mode is called Adventure, plus gamers can also tackle a game of Survival (an endless onslaught of Set’s minions; when the spheres reach the pyramid at the end of the level, it’s game over), while the Practice mode lets you play any unlocked levels from the Adventure mode, in any order you choose.

More so than the original, the game looks truly 3-D, with stunningly detailed imagery such as the colored spheres – that appear to have weight to them — that roll down the side of a temple and snake through ancient Egyptian artwork and tapestries. Further reinforcing its 3-D level design, the colored spheres get bigger or smaller in size depending on the layout. Truly, this is one of the best-looking puzzle games of the year thus far.

Power-ups are plentiful in Luxor 2 – 13 to be exact. When gamers destroy three sphere groups in a row, one of the following power-ups may descend on the screen and you must catch it in time to take advantage of its power: a pink power-up temporarily reverses the direction of all spheres; a green one increases your shooting speed and gives you a handy aiming marker; a red one temporarily stops the chain; and a white lightning bolt blasts all nearby spheres with one shot. A personal favourite is the scorpion that blazes through the path of orbs in the opposite direction, destroying everything in its wake.

Players can also catch falling treasure, such as gold rings, for bonus points; when 30 Ankh pieces are caught, gamers will be rewarded with an extra life.

Every few levels, players will be treated to an arcade-like bonus stage, whereby a number of colored spheres pour out onto the screen and you must shoot daggers from your scarab to destroy as many as you can before they fly away. Bonus points are given for a perfect score. Think of this as akin to the bonus levels in the popular ’80s arcade game, Galaga.

Luxor 2 also features multiple levels of difficulty ranging from easy (yours truly racked up a million points in 40 minutes) to insanely difficult (players can unlock a brutally fast mode called Challenge of Horus). The game also offers a new ranking system that lets players work their way up from lowly Farm Hand to the almighty Pharaoh, while badges of honor can be achieved for progressing throughout the game.

While this article is a preview rather than a review, one foreseeable issue with Luxor 2 is as follows: power-ups are varied and fun to execute, but there are no negative power-ups you want to avoid instead of catching (such as in games like Arkanoid). Adding falling power-ups you don’t want would’ve added another layer of strategy to the game.

Overall, however, Luxor 2 looks like it will more than satisfy casual gamers for its fun and gorgeous game-play. Be sure to download and play to experience ancient Egypt in all its glory.