PopCap Games and Sony Online Entertainment have done it again and brought another fiendishly addictive puzzle game to the PSN Store following on from the success of Bejeweled 2.
Zuma has you controlling a rotating stone frog in an Aztec temple firing different coloured balls out of its mouth. So yeah, it’s a little strange. Bear with me.
The aim of the game is to get rid of all the coloured balls before they move through the course and get sucked down a hole at the end (if one goes, they all go). You do this by shooting out coloured balls to make sets of three or more of the same colour to make them disappear. This is aided by a line that shows where the ball will land. You’ll have to be extra precise when aiming from distance or at awkward angles. It’s a bit reminiscent of Puzzle Bobble in a “Not there you shit!” sorta way. It’ll make you angry sometimes but you won’t be able to put it down.
Sometimes the procession of balls (look, I’m going to have to say balls in this review a lot so let’s just get over it okay?) will already have more than three of the same linked up but you need to fire another one into them to set them off.
Destroying balls will leave temporary gaps until the ongoing balls catch up. If a gap is made with the same coloured balls either side they will connect by pulling the furthest line backwards, giving you more breathing room from the skull of death at the end. If you can set off another combo through this gap at another section of the winding course you’ll get extra bonus points and the line will be pulled back some more.
Some of the balls are temporarily enhanced with power-ups such as a bomb that clears out a wide area, one that pulls everything backwards (essential), slow motion and one for accuracy (that seemingly does nothing at all). The game can be quite stingy here though by often not giving you the colour ball you want to set it off before it disappears. There are also random coins placed at the side of some of the tracks, often behind a line of balls. Major points awarded for hitting one of these will encourage you to risk it.
Scoring points will fill up a meter, when full, ‘Zuma’ is declared and no more balls will enter the arena, leaving you to tidy up the remaining (but still moving) balls.
Getting the balls to go backwards is the most important part of the game in the later levels, some of which start your line very close to the end of the course as it is. This is made all the more difficult by the fact that every time you place a ball in to the line, it moves it forward by one, making it very difficult to claw victory out of the quite literal jaws of defeat unless you get a backwards power up, score numerous combos, or get alike balls to attract over a gap as previously mentioned. Sometimes you’ll unleash an awesome combo that’ll clear a few dozen in one go, to anyone watching you’ll look like a genius, just don’t tell them it was a fluke.
As you can see, the levels are designed like crazed race tracks and spirals that each have differences. The most difficult of these are the ones where the tracks cross over by using a tunnel that you can’t fire a ball into, often meaning you’ll have to wait for them to come out the other side until you can unleash the combo you’ve got your eye on, often while the rest of the line has got hideously close to the end. If you want to win you really need to develop a strong sense of where potential sets are at all times.
Game modes are a bit sparse with the Adventure mode taking you through different temples and levels with a limited number of lives. Losing a life will set you back to the start of a level. The save-point system is very vague but the best way get around it is to quit to the menu at the start of each level, as it autosaves here, and go straight back in (it’s pretty instantaneous) from the menu.
There’s also Survival and Practice modes that let you play through levels unlocked in the main game, and that’s it. No other options are available which is a little disappointing, seeing as Bejeweled 2 had a puzzle mode and a few more variations on the main game. What would have made this great though would have been the ability to transfer the game to PSP.
Other minor gripes include the lack of a widescreen option, forcing the game view into a square box on widescreen TV’s. The music becomes monotonous very quickly, but you can play tunes from your PS3’s hard-drive instead and keep the sound-effects in place if you want.
This isn’t quite up there with Bejeweled 2, but is still essentially addictive. Let’s put it this way, I’ve almost been very late for work twice and ‘one-more-go’ has turned into a two to three hour session almost every time I’ve played it.
Zuma is out now on the PSN Store priced £6.99.