When the original Zuma was released by Popcap in December 2003, who would have imagined that by September 2009 some 17 million units would have been purchased?
But such is the ability of Popcap, for Zuma is not their only success. The figures speak for themselves – Bejewelled 25 million+ since 2001, and over 49 games in their back catalogue.
Whatever formula the Popcap gaming scientists have unearthed clearly works. The games are infectious – hours of play feel like only 5 minutes.
The concept of the original Zuma was to eliminate all of the balls rolling around the screen in a snake formation, before they reach their destination. The Player controls a granite frog and eliminates the balls by matching three or more colours of the same by spitting a coloured ball out of a frogs mouth. To make things easier, powerups were available. If a power up is eliminated by matching the balls, things can happen to the players advantage. There was one that caused the entire chain to move backwards, one that slowed down time, one that improved shooting accuracy by extending a colored line in front of the frog’s mouth, and an explosion ball that destroyed not only itself but all balls nearby.
Popcap are back with a follow-up. Its not a radical shake up, just more of a subtle evolution. Firstly graphics have been updated to take full advantage of HD and sound track is improved on.
In Zuma’s Revenge!, the game opens with a crash of thunder – while playing with a 5.1 sound system I jumped out of my skin – then we see the familiar frog sail across the title screen on a make-shift raft, and eventually washes up on the Polynesian island of Zhaka Mu. The whole of Zhaku Mu is obscured by clouds, it is only by completing a stage do you see the level area.
The lush new island offers up six stages including a jungle, an undersea grotto, and even an active volcano. Within these areas there are over 60 levels of Adventure to complete.
During the course of the game, Popcap breaks up the play, instead of rotating the frog in the middle of the screen, there will be levels were it slides along the bottom like old school Breakout and is only able to shoot directly up. At level 13 we are introduced to a new style of playing. There are 2 strategically-placed lilypads, enabling players to make the frog hop from one side of the screen to the other to attack the line at whatever one gives the best opportunity of clearing it.
The power ups from the original Zuma are back, but there are some new additions. And boy are they good. Laser eyes let you zap out any offending balls, while lightning lets you select a ball and have all balls of that same color eliminated at once. There’s also a new precision aiming power-up that puts a pointer between the frog and the balls. Finally, a triple shot power-up lets you take out any balls in your chosen path.
This was by far my favourite new feature. In order to move to the next area there are Bosses to be fought – all told there are 6 evil Tiki Spirits to defeat. Each of these bosses, all types of tiki gods, will present challenges of increasing difficulty. In most of these, the frog will be able to slide left-to-right freely, working to eliminate rows of balls to access the boss behind them. After a few shots to the face, the boss is taken down.
Later bosses add other elements and challenges, like blast blocking baddies that have to be taken out first. One boss later in the game can summon swarms of mosquitoes to get in your way. Should you be stung, your reaction time is slowed, making it even harder to take out the boss.
Fighting the Tiki Gods helped break up the puzzle game play and added more of an action element. Helping to make you feel more a part of the game.
Another feature to mention is checkpoints. Spaced at regular intervals during an area. It means should you lose all your lifes, you start at the nearest checkpoint as opposed to the level you failed to complete. I can see why It was added but if you have a rotten run of luck it gets very frustrating, playing the same levels on repeat till you reach the next checkpoint. I had a bad run at levels 21-26 and after a while it felt like Ground Hog Day before i eventually got to the checkpoint at level 26. Not really the game’s fault more my inability – still a pain though.
Besides Adventure mode there’s several other new modes to try- Iron Frog (an endless mode that appears to be a successor to the first game’s endless Gauntlet Mode), Heroic Frog (a continuation of Adventure Mode but under a timer), and a Challenge Mode with 70 additional levels that players gradually unlock as they plow their way through Adventure mode. Challenge mode’s levels offer quick bite-sized goals to meet, like earning 40,000 points in three minutes.
I have to say Zuma’s Revenge has been a pleasure to play, as enjoyable as the original Zuma. The thing with it is that despite all the changes it really isnt that radical a change. So if you are wanting to play a game you are familiar with go ahead. Playing Zuma’s Revenge is like putting on a favourite jumper – you know what you are getting and that is no bad thing.
Electro-candy Score – 9 – a great casual game and worthy of the Popcap name.
Zuma’s Revenge! can be downloaded at www.PopCap.co.uk for $19.95 or £12.30.