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Zuma Deluxe

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs




Copyright 2004, PopCap Games

The most addictive puzzle game I have played since Snood, Zuma Deluxe from PopCap Games is a clever take on the “line three same-colored blocks to make them disappear” genre that started years ago with Columns. Instead of falling from the sky, the marbles in Zuma Deluxe march towards you in a rail – similar to Marble Drop. Your job is to destroy all the marbles before they reach the hole by shooting marble to match the colors: at least three of the same color are needed to disappear. You gain bonus points for pulling off feats such as knocking consecutive rows of marbles, making chains across ‘gaps’ in the line, creating ‘chain reactions,’ shooting bonus coins that appear randomly on each level, and more.

Although Zuma is not an “original” game, PopCap added enough new twists and surprises in ways that takes the match-the-blocks gameplay to a new level that is very innovative. Central to this uniqueness is the use of rail layouts: since marbles on each level roll forward on rails that follow a predetermined path, the different level designs make each level unique and refreshing – especially since some levels have multiple layers of depth: some portions of the rail overlap other pars, criss-crossing across the screen. This makes the challenge even more fun, since you can only shoot the portions of the rail that are visible. On higher stages, you will start to see repeated designs, just with new ball colors to make the game more difficult. But the existing levels are varied enough to keep you glued to the screen.

There are two game modes: adventure and gauntlet. Adventure is basically “campaign” mode: you play the levels in order, from easy to difficult. There is even a nice little storyline that progresses as you beat each “temple” (each temple contains three stages, each of which contains 5-6 levels). The gauntlet mode lets you choose which level to play, but you cannot play the ones that you haven’t yet ‘unlocked’ in the adventure mode. The story, graphics, and sounds are based on Mayan motif, and they add a lot of atmosphere. I especially like the “tribal” style music that plays in the background, and the Mayan designs of the marbles.

The registered version costs $24.95, and comes with many more temples to explore. I got a lot more gameplay out of this $24.95 game than I had with plenty of $40 retail games, not to mention countless nights shooting marbles way into the wee hours of the morning, mumbling curses under my breath while “just one more level” promise came and went numerous times. Once you get the hang of things, Zuma Deluxe becomes insanely addictive – dangerously so for those of us with day jobs. A superb masterpiece by all counts, this underdog comes highly recommended to anyone who likes the mix of arcade and puzzle, or Tetris games in general. A worthy induction into our Hall of Belated Fame, and a must-have that should come with “productivity hazard” warning attached.

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