I’d wager a guess that a lot of people have heard of a little company called PopCap Games, even if they aren’t gamers. How? Because sometimes you just can’t spend a day on the internet without seeing one of their ads somewhere, especially Facebook, and it’s hard not to see why. Some of their biggest games include Chuzzle, Zuma, Plants vs. Zombies, and let’s not forget Bejeweled. The big thing about games from PopCap Games is that they’re addicting, and I think the reason why is that a typical game doesn’t last very long, a few minutes at most usually (not sure on Plants vs. Zombies), meaning that even if you only have a few minutes, you can still squeeze in some form of Bejeweled or Zuma. Thankfully, PopCap Games’ games (boy that’s weird to type and read) aren’t just limited to the internet. We’ve seen quite a few console, PC, and portable releases of Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies, and I recently got the opportunity to check out one of their newest portable releases: Zuma’s Revenge. How can a puzzle game get revenge? Well, let’s find out as I stare dumbfounded at the sentence I just typed out.
For those who haven’t played Zuma before (hey, there are plenty of PopCap games I’ve never touched), you essentially shoot marbles from a fixed location to a line of other colored marbles in an attempt to match at least three together to make them disappear. All the while however, the line of marbles continuously moves from point A to point B, and your goal is to make those marbles disappear without them getting to point B. Trust me; it’s easier to see it in action than try to explain it. You can start up combos by clearing out one colored string, and if it was sandwiched between two other marbles that match each other’s color, they’ll immediately move together and if that creates another group of three or more marbles of that color, they’ll disappear, lather, rinse, and repeat. That’s basic Zuma in a nutshell. However, this isn’t just basic Zuma, so let’s see what else they’ve done in this version.
Something to note is that Zuma’s Revenge was released a few years ago for the PC, but I haven’t played that version, so I’m not sure how the PC and DS versions will compare against each other, but I can compare playing Zuma in general between the PC and DS games, so I’ll talk about that when I get to it. To start off with, Zuma’s Revenge has a few different game modes to check out: Adventure, Challenge, Daily Dungeon, Vs., and Iron Frog. Adventure Mode…well, it’s Zuma, so it’s not like there’s much of a story, but basically you’re a frog who’s been tossed ashore on a forbidding island guarded by fearsome tiki bosses. Yeah, that’s the story. Anyway, in Adventure Mode, your goal is to clear all ten levels of each zone and defeat the boss at the end of the zone. In each stage, the marbles will continue until you fill a bar on the upper screen. This is achieved quicker by completing combos and chains. Sounds simple, but it gets a tad tricky when the bosses are involved. The bosses simply move back and forth across the top of the screen while you attempt to shoot at them. However, you’ll also have marbles in your path to take out so you can get a clear shot at the boss, and bosses do attack back, so your window of opportunity is small for the most part. The bosses do also have something that I really can’t stand at times, but I’ll get more into that in a bit. The good news is that at the beginning of a zone, after the fifth stage of a zone, and before a boss, the game creates a checkpoint that you can go back to if you lose all of your lives. That’s nice, as the game does save how many lives you have remaining between stages, but if you’re almost out of lives and really don’t want to go back to a checkpoint, simply pause the game and go back to the main menu. You’ll lose your progress on that level, but you’ll restart from there when you come back, making the checkpoints almost irrelevant. Adventure Mode can get tough kind of quickly, so you’ll really have to rely on reflexes and pinpoint accuracy. Thankfully, you can obtain some temporary powers during the course of a stage. Some marbles have different pictures on them and eliminating them will give you a power for a few moments. Some of these include the Tri-Shot, which is a one-shot item that will send out three large shots to clear out anything in their path, and Lightning, which will eliminate every marble of the color of marble you shoot next.
Challenge Mode tasks you with completing over 70 challenges, ranging from very easy to insanely difficult. Beating the top score in three minutes will give you a crown and open up more challenges. Daily Dungeon is kind of like a roulette wheel of sorts. Once every twenty-four hours, you can spin the wheel to take on that day’s three tasks: Astro, Blitz, and Boss (only available when Adventure Mode is completed). Astro has you clearing ten waves of marbles as they snake through the void of space (kind of tricky when you can’t see where their path is taking them), Blitz has you attempting to reach a target score is just one minute (and you can gain powers in Adventure Mode to use here), and Boss has you taking on a random tiki boss from Adventure Mode. If you’re looking for a quick fix, either Challenge Mode or Daily Dungeon is a good way to get that fix. Versus mode has three different ways to play: Vs. Battle (make your opponent sink his marbles into the golden skull first to win, and you can add marbles to his chain), Score Attack (both players play the same stage for one minute, highest score wins), and Survival (similar to Vs., but getting chains and combos can disrupt your opponent). Sadly, it appears that Vs. Mode can only be played locally and not via Wi-Fi. Finally there’s Iron Frog, which is unlocked by beating Adventure Mode. Simply put, you have one life to clear ten stages. Doesn’t sound hard, and I haven’t unlocked this myself yet, but I’d bet that the stages are tougher than what you’d find in Adventure Mode. After all, it is called Iron Frog.
I mentioned earlier that while I’ve never played Zuma’s Revenge on the PC, I have played Zuma in general and can compare and contrast the controls a bit. From my experience, I’d rather use a mouse as opposed to a touch screen and stylus. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like it’s completely unwieldy, but there are times in which I make mistakes using the touch screen that I didn’t think I made. On the PC, the frog aims wherever you have the mouse cursor, and left-clicking will fire a marble. On the DS, just tap where you want to fire a marble. Again, it’s not like it is terrible or anything, but I tend to make a few more mistakes with the stylus than a mouse. There are a couple other mechanics though that I wasn’t used to when playing Zuma Blitz on the PC. The first comes when a stage has two lily pads. Tapping the other lily pad will make you switch sides. That’s not bad, and it provides a nice little challenge as a wall may obstruct some of your shots, meaning you have to hop to the other lily pad to get to them. The other mechanic is my Achilles’ heel in this game. There are a couple stages you’ll come across in which the frog is at the bottom of the screen. You try to fire a shot, and the frog zips to that spot and fires straight up instead of rotating. With these stages, you can drag the frog along the screen by dragging the stylus, then releasing when you want to fire a shot. This drove me nuts, as it really threw off my aim quite a few times. However, there is one really big issue I have with this mechanic. Remember when I said that the boss stages have something that I really can’t stand at times? Yeah, this is it. The fact that you have to constantly move the frog at the bottom of the screen to avoid the boss’ attacks AND try to clear out marbles at the same time makes for a tedious fight. As much as I like the concept of boss fights in a puzzle game, especially Zuma, I’m not too crazy on how they did them here.
That’s really all there is to it. Kind of like Pushmo, I really didn’t expect this to be a long review, as it is just a puzzle game. It does have a couple flaws, but they’re not game breaking. The graphics look pretty good and the music can be really relaxing. With five game modes, including an Adventure Mode that gradually gets harder as you go, this is a pretty fun game for only $20. You can also get this game via DSiWare, but here’s the strange thing. On there, the game is roughly $7.99 (that’s via the 3DS eShop, not sure how many points that would be). The description lists and shows Adventure Mode, Challenge Mode, and Daily Dungeon, so I’m not sure if Vs. and Iron Frog are included as well, but if so, that puzzles me (pun not intended) as to why it’d be $12 cheaper to get it digitally as opposed to the physical game. Either way, if you’re a fan of Zuma and want a version to take on the road, this is one to definitely pick up.