When you’re working on a sequel to a game that has sold more than 17 million copies worldwide, you must strike that perfect balance between not messing with the winning formula yet also adding enough new features to justify the purchase. 

How did PopCap Games fare with the follow-up to 2003’s Zuma

Very well, but the savvy game makers erred on the side of caution by staying true to what made the original game an extraordinary success – rather than attempting to deliver something different. If you’re a Zuma fan and want more of the same, this great-looking follow-up will provide many hours of ball-bursting fun, but those expecting something fresh might feel PopCap dropped that ball. 

Available as a digital download or at retail, Zuma’s Revenge offers the same main game-play mechanic as its 6 year-old predecessor: You play as a stone frog who (usually) sits in the middle of the screen and can rotate 360 degrees via the mouse. Aim and fire at the chain of multi-colored balls that snake out onto the screen, and when three or more of the same-colored balls touch, it caused them to explode. Your job is to prevent this moving chain from reaching the ominous-looking skull at the end of the weaving path (which varies from level to level) or else you must restart the level again. If you don’t like the ball color shown on the frog’s back you can right-click to swap it for the next one. 

While "power-ups" are back in this sequel – helpful bonuses that pause time, make the chain go backwards temporarily or blow up certain balls on the screen (and three new ones) – this sequel introduces horizontal or vertical scrolling on a few levels (instead of always being in the middle), the ability to hop between two lily pads on the screen and bonuses for successfully hitting special items that pop up on the screen for a limited time. The game now takes place on a new Polynesian island, but all the unlockable sections more or less look the same, which is disappointing. 

One of the coolest new features is the increasingly difficult "boss battles" at the end of every island section. The third main boss (level 31), for example, is a fast-moving cannibal idol named Baron Digo, who you must shoot enough times to defeat. He swiftly scrolls across the top of the screen and not only fires back at you but is protected by balls you must destroy and two moving henchmen. Plus, if the balls reach the end of the second horizontal level, you lose. 

Along with the main Adventure game mode, which can get very tricky as you tackle all 60 levels (and six boss fighters), the game delivers many other modes to keep you clicking long after the main campaign. This includes dozens of specific challenges (including timed stages), Heroic Frog mode (replay all Adventure levels) and ten tough "Run the Iron Frog Gauntlet" levels (click on the creepy skull cave door to enter, if you will!). 

While the music proves less than memorable, the production values are quite high in Zuma’s Revenge, including high-resolution widescreen graphics (up to 1920 x 1200 resolution) and crisp sound effects that really shine in the power-up department. Speaking of music, after a few hours of hearing the soundtrack we turned the music off and played our own MP3s, which worked just fine. 

Controlling the game is a breeze but one minor niggle we experienced is accidentally clicking the Main Menu icon during the game-play. Not sure exactly how this kept happening, but it was about once per level, while frantically spinning the frog and firing spheres at the chain. It’s easy to resume the game-play, though. 

Minor shortcomings notwithstanding – mainly, being disappointed at how similar this sequel is to the original game – Zuma’s Revenge still has that PopCap magic. Fans of twitchy match-3 games will no doubt enjoy this evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, puzzler.