As a general rule my wife does not share my enjoyment of video games. Aside from the plot in games like LA Noire or the Uncharted series she has no interest, and even in those instances never touches a controller. Zuma Deluxe for XBLA is a notable exception, and we spent many hours competing for the best score. Zuma’s Revenge brings the same accessible, addictive gameplay as the original and adds some awesome new powerups and boss fights, resulting in a great game has renewed our fight for the controller.
Like its predecessor, Zuma’s Revenge is a variant on the match three style of puzzle game. Each level has a chain of colored balls moving towards a skull. You must shoot balls into the chain, making color matches and removing them, keeping the chain from reaching the skull and ending the level. Matching balls is important, but which matches you make is more important – the right shot can start a chain reaction combo or place a ball that will allow for a better combo later. Combos not only push the chain back but score higher points, helping you reach the target score and stopping the flow of balls.
Scattered amongst the balls in the chain are several types of powerups, including ones that allow you to slow the chain or move it backwards. There are also a host of offensive powerups, allowing you to do things like blow up a section of the chain, fire a shotgun-like blast through anything in your path, gain pinpoint accuracy to remove individual balls, or even remove all balls of a certain color. Using a powerup may trigger other powerup balls, so with some skill you can string a few together, quickly reducing a long string of balls to just a few stragglers while racking up big points.
The focus of Zuma’s Revenge is on your score. Unlike the original, there are no lives, and a level you have previously reached is available from the menu anytime. After each level, you will see how your score stacks up against others on Xbox Live. You can earn three spirit badges per level for completion, and for achieving time and score goals. Those spirit badges can be spent upgrading the spirit animals you acquire in adventure mode, each granting bonuses that will help you get higher scores. In addition, there are powerup balls granting a score multiplier, and also multipliers associated with combos and shooting through gaps in the chain, so there is a lot of potential to rack up high scores.
Zuma’s Revenge also adds some wrinkles to the gameplay. In some levels, the frog is on a rail moving side to side, rather than just rotating on a lily pad. Other levels have two lily pads, forcing you to jump back and forth, working on different sections of the same chain at the same time, which can be extra challenging. Each of the six levels ends with a boss fight, where you need to not only manage the chain, but get in shots at the boss. It’s a really neat twist on the strategy and forces you to think differently – just making matches isn’t enough, because you need to time them so that the gap created by the match gives you a clear shot at the enemy.
In addition to adventure mode, the game also features a boss rush mode and a weekly challenge where you can compete for the top score on a random level. The iron frog mode is much like the original Zuma – there are ten levels and you have one life. Failure starts you at the beginning, and you are ranked both by your score and how many of the levels you completed. While the main game levels weren’t too difficult, iron frog cranks it up, and completing all 10 levels is an accomplishment.
Zuma’s Revenge is visually far superior to the original on XBLA. The balls have a much more distinct and well-defined look, and the levels have some great color and depth to them. The audio and visual cues that accompany the appearance of a powerup are a welcome addition, and the sounds that associated with their use are really satisfying. The controls are tight and responsive all around – at first I felt like the control was a little loose when the frog moves on a rail, but after a few rounds I got used to it and it felt fine.
Simply put, Zuma’s Revenge is a blast. While lacking the difficulty of the original’s adventure mode, the score challenges, iron frog mode and boss battles more than make up for it. New mechanics and some terrific powerups combine with excellent gameplay to make a great, fast paced strategy game. The combination of simple gameplay and strategy make it a classic “just one more” game, and something all types of gamer can enjoy.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.