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Xbox Live Arcade Review: Astropop

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Puzzle games are a perfect fit for the Xbox Live Arcade because they rarely get old. Astropop combines two of the oldest puzzle gaming mechanics — brick bashing and tile swapping — into a saccharine induced colorful haze before your eyes.

PopCap Games once again released one of their crazy-addictive puzzle games for lucky Xbox 360 owners. In Astropop, you control one of four unique pilot’s space adventure (of course). Although the game has your standard “save the damsel in distress” story line moments, it is far from a dull game.

Your goal is to “pop” bricks by combining four or more of the same color. Using your ship as a platform, you grab bricks from the playfield, and send them flying back up to create the best combination you can. You even get an achievement for a 17x combo.

Unlike KLAX, where you can pile any number of colored bricks on your platform, Astropop keeps you sane by only allowing one color at a time. This does not, however, make the game any easier.

You are also limited in the number of bricks your ship can hold – six. This may not seem like a big deal at first, but it makes for a fair bit of strategy once you get past the introductory levels.

As opposed to the traditional model of clearing the playfield, you need to fill the Brick-o-meter (by popping bricks) to advance in level. This in and of itself has some tactical advantages. If you can rack up an explosive combo, you do not have to worry about that growing number of infected bricks barreling down upon you.

All this time, the rows of bricks are falling ever closer toward your ship. The pace really gets frantic in the later levels. This is mainly due to the nasty Poison Blocks, which will infect anything nearby if you do not take them out first.

The game has a healthy dose of power-up bricks to help you in your never-ending quest. Some of them include Nukes that will take out an entire row or column, Radial Bombs, and Color Bombs (all bricks of one color explode). If you get good at creating combos, an important part of the game, Super-charger Bricks will appear. When these are used, one color becomes “super charged” and acts as a massive radial bomb when popped, taking out any number of bricks in the vicinity.

Along with the above-mentioned Poison Bricks, there are Stone and Steal Bricks that get in your way. These are “null” bricks and have to be taken out by popping bricks around them.

There is of course the wild card. Each ship is equipped with a special weapon that can be used once you have done enough devastation. This is the SUPA weapon, which gets upgraded after the completion of every fourth stage. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer the ship that gives me a laser to shoot the bricks with.

After every third level is a bonus round. At random, you are given a puzzle to complete. You must pop every single brick on the playfield before the time runs out. Some of these are real head-scratchers to figure out.

Along with this Classic Mode, Survival Mode pits you up against a never-ending barrage of bricks. The goal here is to last the longest. Good luck getting the Achievement Points for passing the nine-minute mark!

The difficulty ramps up gradually in Classic Mode, but gets brutally hard in Survival. The game overall has a fair amount of difficulty spanning 32 levels. But don’t worry, you won’t be breezing through those in one sitting.

The only thing missing is some multi-player action. Being able to send an assortment of bricks over to your opponents screen when you make a big combo would be great fun. Instead all we are left with is comparing high scores with the people in our Friends List.

Astropop is a game that is easy to pick up with its simple two button controls, and is about the most addictive game on the Xbox Live Arcade. This one is recommended to all.

Astropop is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PC, Mobile Phone and Web.

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About Ken Edwards