It takes the simple act of jumping to break Zuma out of its confined core and create a fresh piece of matching color action in Zuma’s Revenge. It is a simple change, even an obvious one. Game developers love jumping as a mechanic, and it fits beautifully into the frenzied style of Zuma.
There is little question that Zuma’s Revenge is familiar. Consider the concept, that of a bronzed frog spitting colored balls from its mouth, trying to match three of the same color to a chain that is progressing from one point to another. It is hard to take that anywhere, and whether or not you even want to is debatable. Zuma is a killer, a killer of time and productivity.
As such, splitting levels in half via jumping creates a new dynamic to the game. The original let you use a slowly improving sense of circular peripheral vision to manage the onslaught of rolling colored balls. That’s no longer good enough. With a screen split right down the middle, it is no longer a solid circle. Knowing which half of the split to work is crucial, just as much as paying attention to combos and gaps.
For all of the excitement the jumping brings, it is a shame it is not used more frequently in the game. Zuma’s Revenge is content to work within the basic framework that made it a casual success. That said, the level designs have become increasingly complex and extravagant, with familiar tunnels creating weaving patterns that still keep the concept fresh.
Zuma’s Revenge tries to squeeze in another change of pace as well, although this is shamelessly borrowed from Luxor. In this other change, the frog is confined to the bottom of the screen, capable of only moving horizontally instead of rotating on an axis. The balls move across the screen as if they’ve taken lessons from foes in Space Invaders. It feels like a somewhat desperate inclusion, as though they had to provide something new beyond jumping.
This technique is used, among other places, in boss battles, which at least make this screen flip worth the time designing it. In these battles, the player must be quick witted enough to create gaps in a straight line of balls and fire a second shot to hit the boss moving in an appropriately predictable pattern across the screen. It maintains the core concept of Zuma, while crafting a fine way to end the level on a high note.
PopCap, as always, crams additional modes into the game. Experienced players will carry a love/hate affair with the Frog Gauntlet, ten levels of challenges that make you wonder if Zuma could be any more punishing in Hell. It’s doubtful.
Some new power-ups such as the laser work themselves in nicely, although little can save you in the Gauntlet. The colored balls are unrelenting here in their quest to knock-off the frog, which begs the question how the rather beautiful rolling balls manage to destroy a bronze frog in the first place, especially now that he can jump out the way.
Well, either that or maybe we are just looking for some logic error to give us a reason to stop playing. None of the normal excuses seem to work anymore with PopCap titles.
Zuma's Revenge is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: Mac