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Xbox Live Arcade Review: Zuma

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Everyone who plays Zuma has a deep-rooted hatred for it. It’s the immeasurable, heated, and downright dangerous type of hatred. Actually, maybe it’s not Zuma they hate, but how much people miss out on life because of it.

Like so many of PopCap’s online flash titles, this basic little title with the simple “rock frog shoots colored balls from his mouth” hook is enough to wear down even the highest level of the endurance gaming crowd. While putting together colored items so they disappear isn’t original, Zuma’s spherical nature is. Pieces don’t fall from the top of the screen, or shoot up from the bottom.

Instead, players are trapped in-between their ever approaching doom on all sides. Levels add variety like multi-tiered stages or even double ball strings. It’s a rare bit of variety for the genre, and a massive increase in challenge as things progress.

Zuma’s combo system is the real addictive portion here. Watching an entire part of the screen light up with the pleasing audio cue right behind it is a marvelous sight, and offers an incredible level of accomplishment. Finding different ways to create chains, using randomly generated powered up balls to your advantage (and not always going for the first one) is key to succeeding.

The spinning nature of the player’s frog would have made this a classic trackball title. Since they’re nearly obsolete, we get accurate analog control that services the game play just fine. It’s no more or less accurate than a mouse, and considering the PC version is $20 and the Live Arcade translation is only $10, a few control issues would have been acceptable. However, no compromises are here.

Still, it’s a shame there’s no multi-player (even though it’s not a feature of the original). The game would greatly benefit from any extra modes though given the paltry two it features. Adventure and Gauntlet provide the basics and not much else. Given the addictive nature though, gaining that 24-hour Achievement shouldn’t be a problem even with an anemic selection of modes.

Zuma is unquestionably one of the brightest aspects of the Xbox Live Arcade, and a perfect example of how it can work. It’s accessible, bright, simple, and you can’t stop playing. It’s probably the most entertainment available for $10.

Zuma is a rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PC.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • http://blogcritics.org Joanie

    I’ll admit to playing Zuma online at MSN’s game zone. It’s fun, but I much prefer Luxor.

    I’m so lame when it comes to games. I didn’t even know these sorts of games were available for Xbox. In fact, other than an old Nintendo 64 that someone left here, and my son’s Gameboy Advance, our home is without any sort of real gaming options.

    If I can’t play it online without special controllers or anything, it doesn’t doesn’t register with me.

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Ken Edwards

    Yea, Zuma is pretty addictive. It is one of the Xbox Live Arcade titles I just had to cave in and buy, because I enjoy playing it so much.