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Sep 22, 2011

Discover the Underground Oasis at Saqqarah

Ancient Quest of Saqqarah
Game Category: Casual - Puzzle, Match Three
Developer / Distributor: CodeMinion / Game Club Cafe
Release Date: 22 Jul 2008
Rating: ESRB - Everyone

Ancient Quest of Saqqarah
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Every one thousand years, an eclipse will cast the ancient pyramid of Saqqarah in darkness. That is when you have to don on your thinking cap and confront the challenging match three style puzzles of The Ancient Quest of Saqqarah (AQS). Venture deep beneath the pyramid to find a forgotten prison that is in danger of releasing an evil being from its confines.

AQS is an excellent Egyptian themed casual game that deserves your attention. You play each level of the game on a board comprising of a web-like grid of nodes. Tokens of various colours will be found at every node and depending on the game rules, you must light up the whole board by either matching or arranging tokens.

The game features 7 hidden temples buried below Saqqarah. Each temple houses a god and features a different style of play. Inside a temple are 72 levels (divided into three difficulty levels). If you do your maths, it all works out to a staggering 504 levels of play. To top it off, the developer CodeMinion, have also released another three expansion packs that provide the same number of levels as the original. This means you can continue playing the game for a total of 2016 levels.

But, is the game any fun? I'll give you my short answer - "Yes, it's lots of fun! Go get it now!"

An eclipse signals the beginning the of your quest
Game Play
It seems Seth, an evil god of Egyptian mythology, was imprisoned 3000 years ago for some misdeed. For reasons lost to time, Seth drew the wrath of his fellow gods in the Egyptian pantheon. These seven gods banded together and imbued Imhotep the priest with the power to imprison Seth within the central pyramid that lies beneath Saqqarah.

Over the years, Seth's power has grown strong once again and he seeks desperately to escape from the prison and unleash himself to an unsuspecting world. That's where you come in. At the sign of the eclipse, you will venture below ground to save the world from the machinations of this evil god. With the aid of a magical blue monkey (yes, you read that right) who goes by the name of Khufu, you will set off an epic journey to solve the 504 levels found within the seven temples.

Venture within the seven temples surrounding the pyramid
You will notice that only the Temple of Isis is available to you at first. This temple presents the most conventional rules of play and serves as a good introduction to AQS. As mentioned earlier, each temple has three difficulty levels. This means you will have to play through 24 levels for each difficulty level. The 24 levels are further divided into four stages.

To unlock the next temple, you must complete at least the first four levels (4 out of 72) in the first difficulty level. You can keep doing this to try out all the seven different styles of play.

Let's cover each of the temples in turn:

Just a few more lines to go in the Temple of Isis
Temple of Isis: This is where you must match three or more tokens to light up lines on the board. Matched tokens only need be adjacent to one another (there's no need to form rows). If you manage to light up the lines for a small (triangular or rectangular) field that is dark, that field becomes lighted up. Keep on doing this until all fields on the board are lighted up. Isis uses red to indicate a lighted up field.

Temple of Thot (PS - I thought it should be spelt Thoth): This temple is unique in the sense that you are actually solving logic puzzles. You are able to swap all tokens on the board. The objective here is to find an optimum arrangement such that all tokens on the board belong to a lighted closed field. Puzzles can be skipped, but it's quite costly to do so.

Temple of Anubis: This temple has you using your mouse as a pen and drawing lines to trace out matches. If you match 5 or more tokens, you get a joker token at the node where you ended your line. Keep doing this until you have lit up all lines.

You'll need to think a lot in the Temple of Thot
Temple of Sobek: Here the rules require you to rotate tokens clockwise or counter-clockwise around a field selected with your mouse.

Temple of Horus: Find 3 or more tokens grouped together and click on any of these tokens to eliminate the entire group. This is similar to "Group Mode" found in conventional Match 3 games.

Temple of Bast: This temple is played out in turns. The board starts nearly empty except for a few tokens. You may move tokens to any unoccupied node as long as there is a pathway to that node. Every turn, you are given an indication of where new tokens will appear. You must try to close fields with like tokens so that these tokens can be taken off the board. As you progress, fields will start to light up. The level is completed when all fields are lit.

Let's move the red token over to that node on the right
Temple of Osiris: Just when you thought you'd seen it all, the final temple surprises you with these set of rules - You start every level with a token in hand. You can place this token on a node that makes a closed field. Doing so results in you picking up the token beneath it. Make enough matches and you'll get a joker token to help you out.

That's it... all seven temples. Let's talk next about the common features you encounter during game play.

Firstly, you will get to play two bonus round for every stage of six levels. The bonus round involves finding sets of glyphs from a wall before the time is up. This mini-game really helps to maintain a sense of diversity in game play and also makes for a good breather from the main game.

Help me look for the glyphs
Next, your side kick Khufu will help you in two ways:
  1. On every fifth move, Khufu will cast some magic and imbue a random token with explosive power. This explosive power will knock out pieces around it. 
  2. Every time you perform a match or close a field, the tokens involved falls to the floor. Sweeper the scarab will diligently sweep away all these tokens. Swept away tokens give power to Khufu as indicated by the plumbob like thing next to the blue time bar. When the plumbob reaches the top, Khufu is able to cast his spells. There are six types of spells: lightning, token charge, singing glyphs, fireball, shuffle, and time boost; all are very useful during play. You will definitely start to appreciate the help offered by the blue monkey - after all, Khufu's divine assistance was ordered by the 7 gods opposing Seth.

This spell is especially important in the third difficulty level
Finally, let's talk about some of the challenges that plague you. Lines may be chained to indicate a need to perform two matches over it. Some chains may also require a specific colour token to unlock. Then, there's the token tomb and double token tomb that hides a token until you make a match (or two) adjacent to it. Perhaps the most irritating thing in the game would be Seth tokens. These are obstacle tokens that clog up your level. You can either rely on the Reshuffle power to eliminate them, or use tokens with explosive power to knock them off the board.

If you go far in the game, you will meet the Evil Tower of Seth in the second difficulty level. You will also learn to truly hate the Dark Symbol of Seth in the third difficulty level. What do they do? Buy the game and find out for yourself.

I've gone into the third difficulty level... and it's very challenging!
The artwork in AQS is exemplary. I love the artwork showing the seven temples and the central pyramid lying deep under the Ancient pyramid of Saqqarah - lots of lovely detail there.

During the game, I thought that the palette used for the tokens made good use of rich primary colours so that they can stand out from the shades of brown (brick) and yellow ochre (statues). As you complete each level, you will release a shiny blue scarab that flies to its proper place. You will see these scarabs in action whenever you complete a stage; the six released scarabs will start flitting around the screen. You are required to click on them. Every click will improve the current state of the god's statue found in the temple.

Catch me if you can

The music in AQS is very catchy and appropriate here, that's because there's a Middle Eastern flavour added to the rhythmic beats. The sound effects are decidedly flashy and helps to give the game a strong identity. I can probably recognize the game from several rooms away if I hear someone playing it; all thanks to the glissando like sound effect you'll hear as Sweeper Scarab scurries back home with his treasure.

The best part of AQS though would be the voice acting. There are mostly strong performances. With Khufu being one of the best voiced sidekick I have ever heard in a casual game.

This game sounds great!
  • You get seven different styles of play plus a bonus game. All this helps to provide for lots of variety.
  • Excellent graphics and sound. Great cutscenes to watch. 
  • The game features a simple story that makes good use of the rich Egyptian mythology and casts you in an epic battle of good vs evil.
  • Lots of trophies to unlock; most of them are progressive trophies thanks to the length of the game. The trophies are displayed at the bottom of the temple selection screen.
  • There are animated help instructions to teach you how to play each of the seven games. You can always configure the settings to keep them out of your way.
  • This product oozes with quality and is truly value for money.

A new trophy at last!
  • The unique board layouts may not be everybody's cup of tea, especially for the casual player who prefers regularity in the form of a square (or hexagonal) grid.
  • There may be periods when you just stare at the board and can't see a single match. Although you will be given a subtle animated hint of your next move, it does take some time to activate itself.
  • You will very often enter a No Moves state and the board has to be reshuffled. This may be good or bad depending on your current situation in the game. Whatever it is, it can get bothersome after a while.

This is how you do it
The Ancient Quest of Saqqarah is an excellent game featuring great graphics and sound. Moreover, you get value for your money with 504 levels to play. And furthermore, you can continue to live the joy of this game by purchasing more Saqpacks directly from CodeMinion.

This game comes highly recommended and even more so if you like puzzle and match three style game play. Get it today!

Invasion of the Seth tokens
Daily PC Game Review Score: 9 / 10
Review Date: 22 Sep 2011


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