Reviewed by Jimmy | 02.09.06
Introduction:Zuma is a fantastic puzzle game brought to you by Popcap Games and Oberon Media. Zuma has already enjoyed much success on the internet thanks to the shockwave applet, and now through the integration of Xbox Live Arcade. Zuma on the big screen in HD is leap up from small monitors, mice, and annoying pop-up menus. The Aztec inspired Zuma is an instant classic and we are glad to have one of most addictive games added to the launch of the Xbox Live Arcade.
The Game:In Zuma you control an ancient stone frog which has to keep a lengthy row of coloured balls from entering a hole in the ground. The frog shoots random coloured balls out of his mouth which is intended to match up with the incoming balls. The goal is to match up three or more balls so they explode shorting the line, destroy all the balls and you have successfully passed the level. In principle this sounds simple enough, but it can get quite tricky. You can be good at Zuma within a few hours, but to master the game you will really need to take advantage of opportunity while honing your reflexes.
Zuma is split into two modes Adventure mode and Gauntlet. Adventure mode has you progressing through a series of levels that are split up into different temples. The Gauntlet mode has you ranking up levels on a stationary level. Each mode is presents its own challenge, and successfully completing each one will test you skill and patience.
The trick to Zuma is accuracy, and patience. It's easy to feel the anxiety of the balls coming closer to the hole while you search for a good place to fire a ball. Rather then just blasting away its better to wait the extra second and place the ball in a strategic spot. Miss firing balls is a real easy to create more problems, which will put even more pressure on you as you have to connect more combinations. Remember the frog can hold two balls and you can always do a swamp for the next ball. If you're not sure on the colour it's located on the frogs back.
Zuma also has a few other small bonus points, and tricks you can attempt in the game. One way to easily boost your score is done by shooting coins. I wouldn't be too pre-occupied with these coins. I usually went for them when it was convenient, any time not focusing on the line can snowball into problems. Gaps are another way to earn more points, but unlike coins they are very helpful in winning rounds. A gap bonus is achieved when you shoot through a gap in a line to combo another line. It sounds harder then it is and you naturally will come across gaps during a normal game. The secret it shooting fast enough to take advantage of the gap. One good reason for looking for these opportunities is not only to prove yourself on the Live leader boards, but to gain an extra life. Extra lives come around every 50,000 points, and maybe will just give you that one extra chance you need to pass a level.
Zuma is a well rounded experience, but it does have a few flaws that could be improved upon. The first down side to Zuma is the lack of multiplayer over Xbox Live, or why not even a four player Zuma? These games are important to the success of the Xbox and they might just pull a Nintendo and bring in a wider range of gamer. The other area of concern is the controls. The game is a little awkward. The problem is in the spinning motion and it doesn't flow well with the analog stick, and really it should be a natural feeling. As is stands Zuma is easier with a mouse and a shame since it might cause gamers to turn away from the game. If these two areas where addressed I think we would of had a perfect 10 on our hands.
LOWDOWN:Zuma is worth the investment for the Xbox 360, if you like puzzle type games. Although this could be the one to win you over since it's pacing is a little faster then something like Hexic. Zuma is a lot of fun and can provide hours addictive intense action. If you already have this running on your PC you might want to skip this version until they fix the controls add extras like Xbox Live mutliplayer. Overall Zuma is a great addition to Xbox Live arcade, its one of those classics which will become a timeless hit.