Once in a while a game comes around, where you have no idea how to play it – even after the tutorial – but somehow after fumbling through a few levels a light bulb goes off. Such is the case with Scepter of Ra, a new Egyptian-themed casual game with rules that didn’t make much sense to me until my brain caught up with my mouse-clicking finger. The end result is a fun and frenetic puzzler that may remind veteran players of PopCap’s Pixelus.
While the game offers three unique modes and varying difficulty levels, the core game-play works as follows:
You’re presented with a board that houses colored stones (with hieroglyphics on them), all laid out in a specific pattern. On the edges of the board are arrows, which indicate the direction you can fire additional stones at, with the goal of aligning at least three of the same-colored stones vertically or horizontally. By successfully matching these stones, it removes them from the board, you collect some points, and it clears the colored spot on the board itself; when all colors are removed, you advance to the next level.
Unless you’re playing the Relaxed mode, a timer also counts down as you play Scepter of Ra, so you must work fairly quickly to complete the puzzle.
Adding some strategy to the game, plays must discover how the stones act when fired, since they push existing stones over to the next spot on the grid upon contact, while others may bounce back to the edge of the screen if nothing is in its path. Plus, stones get “caught” on the ones already placed on the board, so you must think your shot through before firing. Similar to games like Zuma, if you don’t like the colored stone you’re about to fire, you can right mouse-click and toggle the next colored stone in the queue.
As you puzzle your way through lost Pyramid of the Pharaoh – totalling 150 increasingly challenging levels – power-ups and obstacles begin to appear such as blazing fireballs that help remove stones for you or glass-like blockers that need to be smashed before they can reach same-colored stones. Oh, and you can skip a level you might be having a hard time with, but it will cost you a life!
Aside from the game taking a while to figure out – and hey, it might just be me – there isn’t much to complain about with Scepter of Ra. That said, I don’t think it’s as accessible to novice or younger players as many other pick-up-and-play casual games, but a few minutes of play should add some clarity to your goal – and it does grow addictive. The Egyptian theme is also overdone in casual games, but the attractive background art and good music are an asset here.
If you’re a puzzle freak looking for a new challenge, you will enjoy clicking through Scepter of Ra, so be sure to download the free trial to give it a spin.