"Secrets of the Luxor" - an
unprofessional and long-winded review
My "Secrets of the Luxor" game is a Win/Mac hybrid. I played it on a PC.
It is fairly old as Windows games go, dated 1996.
I bought this game from shop.3d.com late last year and finally got around
to playing it only recently. It seems to be available now from
shop.strata.com. The game came with both a manual and a "Secrets of the
Luxor Compendium." The "Compendium" includes a walkthrough, a map section,
and a fairly lengthy section telling of the trials and tribulations the
people at Mojave went through while making the game. It includes quite a
few illustrations of preliminary sketches and storyboards. It's humorously
written and worth a look if you're interested in that sort of thing.
The manual is also humorously written. Here is an example:
"User error: It's NOT our fault!
Everything in Secrets behaves perfectly. If you encounter a problem, it's
yet another puzzle. For example, let's say that you've double-clicked on a
saved game, and nothing happens. You've encountered Osiris' dreaded "Is
the CD in the CD drive?" puzzle. Are you man/woman enough to unlock the
riddle of putting the CD back into the drive?
Another fun puzzle is the Error Type 11 puzzle. Can you reprogram the Mac
OS in time to save the planet? (Note: PC users face the dreaded "How do I
configure my sound card" mystery.)"
Now I don't mind humor in a manual, even if it isn't very good humor. But
I'd have preferred if they'd included more information on topics such as
"How do I use this camera?" and "Why am I getting a fist cursor instead of
an arrow cursor when there's nothing to grab?" More on the camera later.
(Note: I did nothing to configure my sound card so I'm not sure what they
were talking about.)
Installation was weird. You copy the Secrets folder directly off of CD1
and paste it wherever you please. To start the game, you just run the
Secrets.exe file. I created a desktop shortcut to this file for
You also need to install the QuickTime that comes with the game. It is an
older version 126.96.36.199. The manual says the QuickTime installer is located
in the QuickTime folder on the CD. However there was no QuickTime folder
on the CD and the QuickTime installer was found in the main CD listing and
not in any folder. Bad manual. Erroneous manual. Manual lied. There is
both a Qt16inst.exe installer and a Qt32inst.exe installer. I only used
the Qt32inst.exe installer. I'm not sure if that was responsible for the
minor problems I encountered, but I kind of doubt it. Anyway, the problems
weren't that bad and I was too lazy to interrupt the game to try
installing the Qt16inst.exe version (which I figured was for Win 3.1
rather than Win 95).
The minimum PC requirements are for a 486, and that's what I played the
game on. Why? Because I didn't want to risk messing up the QuickTime 2.12
installation I have on my faster computer which is being used for a
different game. I usually only use the 486 for DOS games. In most parts of
the game, the 486 was plenty fast enough, the speed being limited by the
spinup time of the CD drive and not by the processor speed.
One general comment - the game is visually fairly dark. If you have a Mac
(with hardware gamma correction) or a PC with a video card with gamma
correction, you will have an easier time of finding things. Even playing
at night with the lights out and the monitor brightness turned up, it was
difficult to see things in the darker rooms in the game.
Secrets of the Luxor is divided into 3 levels. If you sneak a peek into
the Secrets "Compendium" you'll learn that they are called
1. Ancient Egypt
2. Crypto-Egypto (Who came up with that name anyway?)
3. Osiris' Castle (If that's a castle, I'm a 3-headed monkey)
Ancient Egypt was the best level IMHO. It reminded me a bit of Riddle of
the Sphinx (though ROTS was better) the way you start out in a fairly
believable ancient Egyptian setting and gradually start finding things
that are progressively weirder.
You start out in your motel room by picking up everything you can. You
learn about what you're supposed to do next by reading the journal you
find in the room. It is fairly long, over 60 pages, but they are teeny
little pages and it's fairly interesting reading. There is a bathroom with
a working toilet in it. It even has water in it. Lift the lid and watch as
you flush. Yee-hah! Curiously, the sink did not work. I guess the game
designers figured a working toilet is more important.
My game started off on a happy note when I clicked on the electrical
socket. Why did I do this? Because I could. I apparently electrocuted
I heard "Aauuggghhh!!!"
And the screen went black.
And I found myself in bed looking up at the ceiling, as if I'd just
started the game. The inventory I'd previously collected was still there
though, so I'm not sure if I actually died or not.
As soon as you walk out your hotel room door, an automatic video is
triggered where you travel to the site of the pyramid that you want to
explore. Your first task is to get down the elevator into what's called
"The King's Room" without being shot or kersplatted when the automatic
elevator brake doesn't work and you go plummeting to your doom. This is
actually not too difficult, provided you look at the emergency elevator
brake instructions on the wall before entering the elevator.
In the King's Room you find a computer that you can read files on. They
will advise you of other possible sources of death - e.g. by walking into
the pit or walking into the crusher room. This is the only other extended
reading you will have to do in the game. By solving puzzles or locating
and pulling levers or pressing buttons, you can deactivate the traps and
enter new areas of the game. Some of the clues to the puzzles are found in
your journal (you are an archeologist and previously translated certain
hieroglyphics). And some of the clues are found elsewhere in the pyramid.
There are a couple of hallway maze areas. They aren't too difficult, but
because I have no patience for mazes and because it was so dark, I quickly
consulted the maze maps in the walkthrough to speed my way through them.
The Crypto-Egypto level wasn't as interesting as the Ancient Egypt level,
though it wasn't completely bad. I ran into a lot of force fields at first
and had trouble getting properly scanned so I could pass through them.
There wasn't as much to see in this level as in the previous one. There
was a lot of back-and-forthing. Something you do at one end of the complex
would allow access to an area at the other end, where you'd do something
to allow you access to some place in the first area, etc. I got a bit
tired of futuristic golden hallways and going through force fields. Maybe
my worst criticism of this level is that the story doesn't really advance
as you go along. Once you get to the end of the level, something happens.
But this level got to be something of a chore after a while.
There is one room that had what looked like pickled people in it. I never
did figure out what was supposed to be going on in there. There didn't
seem to be any way to manipulate them. Maybe I missed clicking on
something that would have explained the situation. Oh well.
There is an Easter Egg you can find on one of the lower floors of one of
the areas. To access it you will need the toothbrush from your hotel
bathroom. If you didn't pick it up in the beginning of the game, you're
pretty much stuck as far as the Easter egg is concerned.
The third and last level, Osiris' Castle, starts on CD2. This level was
the one I had the most trouble with. It was essentially a sort of 3D maze
- or maybe like being inside a giant lock. I spent a lot of time going up
and down elevators trying to figure out what was going on. Eventually I
got disgusted and hit the cheats. The building is apparently made up of
concentric rings, which you need to rotate to be able to access different
parts with the elevators. The control mechanisms for the rings are located
at different parts of the buildings, some of which are inaccessible until
you've previously set other control mechanisms correctly and rotated their
rings correctly. Like a doofus, I'd set the first control mechanism, but
didn't realize I had to press the rotate button too. Then I'd wonder why
no new areas had opened up. Aak!
To say something nice about this level, the background views of the
futuristic city that you see in some places, like the areas around the
ring control mechanisms, are pretty decent. I also enjoyed the funny
old-fashioned movie of Osiris. It was done like an old silent movie, with
black screens with white captions interspersed with a slightly sped up
black-and-white video of Osiris talking. The background music was some old
honky-tonk ragtime piano music. It was very much out-of-place in that
futuristic setting (supposedly 300 years in the future) but it was always
good for a laugh.
One problem I had was with the camera. You're supposed to be able to take
pictures of things you see if you think they'll be useful later as clues.
I was able to take the pictures and give them a name. But later I was
unable to bring them up. There was a snapshots icon in my inventory, but
whenever I brought it up, it was empty. There was only an exit button,
which fortunately worked really well. It didn't seem to be possible to
click the camera on the pictures or the pictures on the camera, but I
wonder if the camera had any film in it.
I've already mention the problems I had getting scanned. You need to get
yourself scanned in order to get through all the force fields in the
Crypto-Egypto level. To do this, you have to run your cursor over the
scanner. I did this many many times without result. I reloaded from a
saved game several times, trying to get it to work. I went to the saved
game before that and replayed the entire level to that point trying to get
it to work. At one point I got the lowest scanning bar to fill in, but
couldn't get the two upper ones to fill in. I gave up for the day. I went
back to it the next day and kept at it. Suddenly, without explanation, the
game decided to behave itself and I was able to get all three scanning
bars filled in. I have no idea why, but I was sure to save as soon as I'd
Some of the videos were really bad looking. I'm not sure if this was due
to compression or what. There is a video in the mono-lev showing Osiris'
crash landing. I couldn't make head or tail of what I was seeing. It gave
a vague sense of movement from time to time, but I really couldn't see
much of anything. It didn't help that there was a big fat crack right
across the middle of the viewing area. The "Compendium" explains the
reason for this. They were using videos that were originally meant for
another project and there were characters in the video who did not exist
in the game. So they masked them out by using that big crack. They felt
they had to use all the video footage they had. But in my opinion, the
worst videos added nothing to the game besides confusion and just looked
bad in a game where the graphics were mostly pretty clear. It's one thing
to have videos with low-res graphics. It's another to have videos where
you can't make out anything at all.
Unfortunately it often shows that the videos used in the game weren't
originally made for the game. The video you see at the end of the Crypto-Egypto
level didn't really make any sense. For example, in part of it there are
(*gasp*) naked people made entirely of (I think) water dancing around.
What does that have to do with anything? They eventually morph into people
wearing some kind of skin-tight black combat suits (like Morgan in
Messenger) and instead of dancing they start doing some sort of martial
Then they all blow up.
What was the point of that?
And right after that confusing video, I got a message to switch to CD2. I
took the CD out and immediately got a System Error message that it
couldn't read from drive E: (my CD drive). "Well of course you can't read
off that drive, you silly game. You just told me to put the other CD in."
It wasn't a blue screen error. The error message was in a large white box
that I'd never seen before. The game didn't crash or anything. I just put
CD2 in and clicked the Retry button and all was well. But how did that
error message get past the testers? I would think everyone would get that
message at CD changing time. I replayed that section of the game, waiting
about a minute before taking CD1 out (just in case there was something it
hadn't quite finished doing before displaying the Change CD message). But
I still got that same error message immediately after removing CD1.
One bug I had may have had something to do with playing the game on a 486.
The game's listed PC system specs are for 486 or better. My 486 is a 133
MHz non-Pentium variety (I understand that 486 Pentiums are appreciably
faster, MHz for MHz, than non-Pentiums). For most of the game, it ran just
fine, response time being solely limited by having the CD need to spin up.
But in the upstairs puzzle rooms of the Crypto-Egypto level, I had massive
slowdowns with a great deal of disc accessing. Both CD light and processor
light were on constantly. I'm not sure what caused this. Maybe this part
of the game was programmed in a really inefficient way. The problem may
not even show up on faster computers. But I didn't see anything going on
in those rooms that would take such a lot of processing power. At least it
The closing video was probably meant to be very grand - showing a view of
an enlightened future world free of what's-his-face's dictatorship. But
the low-resolution graphics and distorted sound made it something of a
disappointment. I've seen better looking video sequences on older games,
so the quality of the video may have been limited by the potential of the
version of QuickTime that was used. If you use your imagination, you can
imagine what they intended for this closing video to look like. I know
we've all been somewhat spoiled by modern graphics, but it's more jarring
when the rest of the game has relatively clear graphics and the videos
have such low resolution and sound quality. It didn't seem to be possible
to skip the video or the closing credits at the end of the game. I took
the opportunity to go brush my teeth rather than trying to
control-alt-delete past them.
The game box says the PC version is for Win 3.1 or Win 95. My 486 has
Windows 95 Upgrade version on it. I don't see any reason why this game
wouldn't work just as well with Windows 98. I am not so sure about Win ME,
mainly due to the rather old version of QuickTime the game requires.
Someone with Win ME will have to supply this information.
Despite all the crabbing I've done about it, I thought the game was worth
playing. I wouldn't recommend paying a huge amount for it, but if you can
get it for $20 or less it's probably worth it. The first level is
certainly interesting and I enjoyed the occasional touches of humor in it.
I don't think the end of the game lived up to the promise of its
beginnings, but you can say that about a lot of games.
copyright © 2004