Whether you’ve played Zuma itself or the many titles inspired by it (such as Luxor, Stoneloops! of Jurassica and Tumblebugs), the familiar concept of destroying slowly-rolling colored balls before they snake their way to the end of the line is one of the staples of casual arcade games.
In PopCap Games’ original Zuma (which was itself inspired by the 1998 arcade game Puzz Loop), players control a little stone frog that can pivot 360 degrees and fire colored spheres from its mouth in order to make matches of three or more and remove like-colored balls from the playfield before the line reaches the skull.
A lot has happened since Zuma first launched in 2003. The game has been released on platforms a varied as Xbox Live Arcade, the iPod, and Facebook. Its developer, PopCap Games, has gone on to wow both casual and hardcore gamers alike with crossover hits like Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies. And match-3 puzzle games have been superseded by hidden object games, hybrid "hidden object adventures," and time management games as the most popular casual game genres.
One could say that the time was ripe for Zuma‘s return, but the frog is apparently out for more than a peaceful homecoming in the upcoming Zuma sequel Zuma’s Revenge!
In Zuma’s Revenge!, the familiar frog sails across the title screen on a make-shift raft, and eventually washes up on the Polynesian island of Zhaka Mu. The lush new tropical setting offers up six stages including a jungle, an undersea grotto, and even an active volcano, which serve as backdrops for more than 60 new levels.
Gameplay will be instantly familiar to fans of the genre, but there are nevertheless two new things veterans will notice straight away: First, the game’s presentation has undergone a subtle but attractive overhaul, including a hi-res (1920×1200) graphics setting with support for widescreen monitors, and more robust sound effects and music. (Nothing as over the top as Peggle, mind you, but the game is definitely easy on the eye.) Second, there’s a new targeting reticule that makes aiming easier.
Delving deeper into the game, you’ll find new power-ups, extra modes, and a handful of unique level designs to shake up the classic formula.
The original Zuma had four power-ups that were activated by destroying special balls that had the power-up encased inside: there was one that caused the entire chain to move backwards, one that slowed down time, one that improved shooting accuracy by extending a colored line in front of the frog’s mouth, and an explosion ball that destroyed not only itself but all balls nearby. Zuma’s Revenge! introduces new power-ups, including Laser Frog – literally, a laser that shoots from the frog’s eyes and can destroy up to four balls with pinpoint precision; Lightning Color Nuke – a power-up that destroys all balls of a certain color on-screen; and the Tri-Shot power-up, which sends three powerful cannonballs barrelling through anything in their paths.
What else is new? Well, there are levels where instead of rotating the frog in the middle of the screen, it slides along the bottom like Breakout or Arkanoid and shoots directly up. Some levels also have more than one strategically-placed lilypad, so players can make the frog hop from one side of the screen to the other to come at the line from different angles.
Oh… and did we mention boss battles? That’s right. The frog isn’t exactly given a warm reception by the island’s natives when he arrives on Zhaka Mu, and if he wants to continue his adventure he’ll have to defeat the six evil tiki spirits that preside over each region.
Besides Adventure mode there’s Iron Frog (an endless mode that appears to be a successor to the first game’s endless Gauntlet Mode), Heroic Frog (a continuation of Adventure Mode), and a Challenge Mode with 70 additional levels that players gradually unlock as they plow their way through Adventure mode. Challenge mode’s levels offer quick bite-sized goals to meet, like earning 40,000 points in three minutes.
Zuma’s Revenge! will be available on Sept. 15 in store and via download at PopCap.com for $19.95.