Review: Zuma's Revenge (XBox Live)
Anyone who has paid any attention to mobile games in the last few years will know about the Zuma genre of games. Thanks to the licencing deal with EA, Nokia can bring the franchise to Xbox Live with no compromises. Accept no limitations, this is the frustrating, fast, and fun, real deal.
Version Reviewed: 188.8.131.52
The biggest plus to this title is that it feels not just complete, but as if there is more in the application than you would expect to find. There are sixty regular levels in the adventure mode (which you can work through sequentially), while the 'challenge' levels, made up of independent non-linear levels with set goals to achieve, adds another sixty levels to the mix (and that's before you toggle the difficulty level of these scenarios to give you a few more combinations). That's a lot of game right there, and while I'd like to see a 'random' or 'endless' game option to keep providing a new challenge for as long as I want to play, this package is going to take at least two weeks to worth through.
Zuma's Revenge is a match three, but unlike Bejewelled it does not take place in a square grid. Here the coloured balls are all lined up, one after the other, following a channel that winds round the screen from the edge, and finally into the gaping maw of, presumably, Zuma. As coloured balls are added at the end of the line, it inches towards that maw, and if a coloured ball was to reach that, then the level is lost, a life is lost, and you'll have to play the level again.
And you play a frog.
Sitting in the central area, with the line of balls winding around you, you can spit out coloured balls in any direction in an attempt to create three or more balls of the same colour in the winding line. Manage that and they'll vanish and the line will close up. If that creates another colour match, welcome to chain reaction territory, lots of disappearing balls, and score multipliers. From such a simple game mechanic a great game is created.
This all fails if the control system doesn't give you both speed and accuracy. Speed because Zuma is a very fast moving game, and when you get into the zone you can be rifling the balls out your mouth and into the line at a surprisingly fast rate of knots; and accuracy because the balls do take some time to travel towards the line before they slot in between two balls. You're going to be leading your target, sometimes by a significant amount, because if you aim where you want the ball to land, the line will have moved on by the time it arrives.
You can sweep the ball out from the mouth of the frog if you want to play that way, but it's far easier (and faster) to simply tap where you want to target the next ball, and it will be thrown out in that direction. When the action speeds up in the game, this leads to a flurry of taps, and I'm unsure how the swiping mode would hold up!
There are power-ups that will appear in the line, and if you can make a match with one of these power-ups, you'll activate the power up. This might affect the whole line (from slowing it down to making it move in reverse), or your frog might pick up a special power, such as laser eyes to destroy a specific ball of your choice, or a shotgun to clear a portion of the line.
Zuma' Revenge is a joy to play. I mean, it's not always a pleasure - it has the knack of building up the tension very quickly which leaves me in a situation where I feel I am just keeping my head above water while playing, and one mistake or wrong move would be game over. But the game engine is relatively forgiving, and the coloured balls that are presented to you generally help rather than hinder.
The core gameplay is spot on. The progressive level of difficulty in the adventure mode that leads you through the sixty levels is pitched about right (with an end of level boss to beat every ten levels - all you need to do is hit them a few times with a ball - such a shame the moving line gets in the way and acts as a defensive wall). And the additional challenge levels, giving you a specific score to aim for in a timed window, brings in another way of playing the game, assuming repeating the adventure levels.
Zuma's Revenge feels like the complete package. It's a game that you can play each level relatively quickly (so good for mobile snacking) but always rewards a long gaming session. It gives you excitement, danger, and tension very quickly at just the right level of intensity. It looks great and perhaps most importantly, the sound effects lend a real physicality to the balls as the crash into each other, slide around, and disappear.
Part of that could be put down to EA's experience and feedback of this game on other platforms, but the important thing for me is that the title is available on Windows Phone - or at least the 80% of Windows Phones built by Nokia. I'm not going to call it perfect (no app or game ever is, unless it's 3D Deathchase), but I see no reason why this shouldn't be on every phone out there.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at