They squeak, they squeal, and they’re just as cuddly as all get-out. In fact, if you could hug them and take them for a walk, they’d no doubt make great pets. But until "Chuzzles" are available at your local pet store, you’ll need to have your fun with them in the "match-three-in-a-row"-type game from PopCap that bears their name.

Why you’d want to make such cute critters explode is beyond me, but that’s the object of the game. You click and drag horizontal and vertical rows of Chuzzles to make groups of three of the same color or more. When you’re successful, they vaporize and their eyeballs hop into a little beaker (don’t ask).

That’s all you’ll find in the online instructions; everything else that happens is entirely intuitive on your part. But it doesn’t take more than a few minutes’ playing to figure out the rest. Like the fact that occasionally a padlock will appear, preventing you from sliding the Chuzzles — until you have the opportunity to blow up a combination of Chuzzles, which will then eliminate the padlock. These "Super Chuzzles" appear at random, and knocking one off earns you extra points. When you really get good, you’ll find that nuking a few Chuzzles can set off a chain reaction that will wallop quite a few more. That’s when you really start racking up those points.

There are four play modes in the game: puzzle, speed play, endless play and standard mode. Each comes with its own difficulty adjustment and interesting twists. Chuzzle certainly delivers a lot of game play for the money. The title also has interesting 1970’s inspired discotheque music and excellent hints – although you will lose points if you use the real-time help.

In addition to scoring points, part of the thrill of doing well in Chuzzle is earning trophies for your on-screen Trophy Room. Mine is just filled to the rafters with trophies I’ve won for — let’s see now — popping seven Chuzzles at a time, removing three or more locks in one sweep, making a quadruple combo, exploding three Super Chuzzles at once, causing a seven-step cascade, reaching level 10 in classic or speed Chuzzle, playing an entire game without using hints, and — well, you get the picture. If you can explode a Chuzzle while crossing your eyes and pulling an earlobe at the same time, surely there’s a trophy for that too. Cool!

If the game begins to bore you, take a break and just have fun annoying the Chuzzles. Click on them too many times and they’ll sneeze, losing all their hair; point your cursor at them too long and they’ll get angry and push your cursor away; shake a row of Chuzzles too many times and they’ll get dizzy. It’s a sadist’s delight!

But all good things must come to an end … and, in Classic Chuzzle, when you reach that point when there are no moves left to make, you lose a life. If that happens three times – BAM! — you’re Chuzzled out.

And that’s the most disturbing thing about Chuzzle. There’s just no way to foresee when you’ll run out of moves … and I contend that’s not playing fair. If you can play a game for hours on end and lose simply because your luck runs out, that seems a bit wrong. Perhaps PopCap could have considered a game play mode that depends more on your skills and less on the random placement of Chuzzles.

All that aside, the game is truly great – well-designed and endlessly fun puzzle with a cute edge. Of course, no matter how cute they are, sometimes you just want to kick a Chuzzle. Does that make me a bad person?