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Zuma’s Revenge! (PC) artwork

Zuma’s Revenge! (PC) review

"Zuma's Revenge is fun, addictive and hard to put down."

Peggle, Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies are a testament to the fact that addictive, fun and enjoyable games have become a trademark of PopCap Games. What make their games so engrossing are their brilliant level designs, cute graphics and loads of cool power-ups.

Zuma’s Revenge!, the sequel to the 2003 award-winning blockbuster hit Zuma, is the latest offering by PopCap Games. Zuma is a color matching, ball blasting game in which you are a frog that shoots colored balls from its mouth. In Zuma’s Revenge!, the Zuma frog ends up stranded on Tiki Island, which is ruled by five war chiefs, each ruling one section of Tiki Island. Each section is divided into nine regular stages and one Boss Battle. The object in each regular stage is to clear all the balls in the stage by matching the colors and making sets of three balls or more.

The level design in most of the stages is such that the Zuma frog is in the center and can be rotated 360 degrees. Balls enter the stage in a snake-like pattern from one corner of the stage, and they keep entering until you fill the Zuma bar, or until they reach the skull (which means you lose a life). The Zuma bar fills up as you match and blast balls. The faster you fill the Zuma bar, the better, because that means you'll need to blast fewer balls to clear the stage. To help, you get seven different power-ups, ranging from a simple power-up like the Accuracy power-up (which increases the accuracy and speed of your shots) to the more devastating Tri-shot (which shoots three balls from the frog’s mouth and blasts everything in their paths). Power-ups appear randomly and disappear quickly, so you have to use fast and accurate shots in order to capitalize on them. Fruits also appear frequently, and these can also be shot to fill the Zuma bar faster.

While the concept of matching and blasting balls seems very simple, it does require strategy. Each match makes some balls disappear, causing the rest of the snake to collapse inwards, filling the gaps. Blasting single sets of balls earns points, but chaining together multiple matches fills the Zuma bar rapidly, earns big scores, and gives extra lives. The best way to chain matches together is to ensure that when the ball snake collapses to fill the gaps, it creates a new series of similar-colored balls, thus triggering a chain reaction. You will usually have several different points in the snake to shoot at, so you will have to decide which match will give you the best advantage. This sometimes even means foregoing a power-up.

There are also side-scrolling levels, multiple-snake levels, and jumping levels. In the side-scrolling levels, instead of being in the centre of the stage, the Zuma frog is at the bottom of the screen, only able to move left or right instead of rotating 360 degrees; all boss battles are side scrolling levels. In the multiple-snake levels, there are two ball snakes moving towards two skull openings, while in the jumping levels, the Zuma frog can jump between two blocks and blast the ball snake(s) from different sides. With the game spanning 60 levels, the multiple stage designs keep the game varied until the very end. Also, levels in the game aren’t terribly long and canbe completed in around three to five minutes. Additionally, the game saves anywhere, so if you have to quit the game mid-stage, the game saves at that point and you can resume the next time you play. Finally, you get checkpoints from which you can restart your game if you lose all your lives. Mid-stage saves and checkpoints mean that you don’t have to commit long hours into this game. Even if you have 10-15 minutes to spare, you can jump into this game, blast a few balls, save, exit and resume whenever you want to.

Perhaps the most enjoyable and frantic levels in the game are the Boss Battles. Each boss requires a different strategy to beat and each boss has a special power that gives you a negative status effect. For example, one boss can only be beaten by acquiring the Blast power-up which blows up everything in a certain radius. So, in that Boss Battle, not only are you trying to acquire the Blast power-up, you are trying to dodge the bees that the boss is throwing towards you that cause you to slow down, while still making sure that the ball snake does not reach the skull opening.

When you are done with the Adventure Mode (story mode) you can try your hands on other modes which include the Heroic Frog Mode, the Challenge Mode and the Iron Frog Gauntlet. The Heroic Frog Mode and the Iron Frog Gauntlet are much tougher versions of Adventure Mode. While Heroic Frog mode is a replay through Adventure mode, the Iron Frog Gauntlet (by far the toughest mode) has ten of its own unique levels. In the Challenge Mode, you have to beat a target score in a three-minute time limit to earn trophies, with score-multiplying balls added to the mix.

Since the graphics are on the lighter side, you don’t require a heavy duty PC to run it. The graphics are simple yet cute, bright and colorful: a graphical description that has become synonymous with PopCap Games. There is a Hi-Res (1920x1200) setting that makes the game look prettier, but even if you don’t turn that setting on, the game looks just fine. Tribal musical scores, color-blind assist and humor on the loading screen round off this great package.

Zuma’s Revenge! is a very simple game to pick up, but hard to put down. With no complicated gameplay elements to master, all you need is your mouse, the first couple of tutorial levels, a little skill and reflexes, and you’re on your way to becoming a champion frog ball blaster.


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Freelance review by Sohail Saleem (September 20, 2009)

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