Zynga’s next arcade game asks match-3 players to dig deeper

When Zynga unveiled Bubble Safari to the world last month, it seemed pretty clear that they were headed in an exciting new direction: arcade games. This morning, the Big Z took the wraps off of their second arcade game for Facebook – and if you’re a fan of frenzied color-matching fun, you’re in for a doozy.

Ruby Blast is a fast-paced match-3 game that more closely resembles outings like Diamond Dash and Collapse than gem-swappers like Bejeweled. Players will join the adventurous archaeologist Ruby Stone as she busts gems to dig her way deeper and deeper into a mine over the course of 40 seconds, uncovering plenty of treasures (and power-ups) along the way.

The game may start out with only 40 seconds on the clock, but players will be able to earn more time as they dig through the bedrock. And that’s good, because the longer you play, the more chances you’ll have to boost that score – and you’ll want to boost that score. Ruby Blast will feature weekly tournaments that pit you against everyone on your friends list, and the winner will take home in-game prizes (like virtual currency and more energy).

While the game is largely powered by the desire to blast past your friends and family in terms of score, players looking for some competition that’s a little more hands-on won’t have long to wait – Ruby Blast is aiming to introduce head-to-head multiplayer post-launch, sometime before the end of the year.

Gamezebo recently had a chance to talk with Jonathan Grant, Zynga Seattle’s Design Director, and he couldn’t have been more enthused about what he believe Ruby Blast will deliver to the end-user: “We wanted to take a familiar concept that people have come to understand and love, and give them an experience that has some new innovations, twists, and a new visual experience that takes the whole thing to a new level.”

Speaking of visuals, Grant says that he and his team set out “to make the most visually spectacular game on Facebook,” and judging from what we’ve seen, he might just deliver on that promise. Not only does Ruby Stone herself come across as near-Pixar quality character (a feat achieved by Zynga Seattle Art Director Kevin Hanna, who also has an unrelated animated feature film in the works), but Ruby Blast will be Zynga’s first game to leverage the power of Flash 11.

Utilizing the hardware accelerated 3D capabilities found in Flash’s latest version, Grant says players can expect “a ton of particles blazing off and lighting up the screen.” In fact, even with a single power-up, Grant says you should see “six or seven particles layered into that one effect.”

Between the Flash 11 support here and the 60 frames per second in Bubble Safari, it seems safe to say that Zynga’s visuals has come a long way since Mafia Wars. Keep an eye out for Ruby Blast real soon – Zynga is expecting to launch this one on Facebook and Zynga.com before the end of the week.