Ah, Zuma... We thought we were finally over you - we'd given you up, cast you out and left you sitting on that lillypad for good. While we would have liked to see those last few levels you had up your non-existent sleeves, it was always just a little leap too far for us. But now you're here again, with a whole new set of ball-blasting levels to tempt us, showing us more frog legs than ever... We suppose one quick go can't hurt, can it? Maybe just one more go. But then that's it. We have work to do and need to get up early in the morning... For those unfamiliar with the ever addictive Zuma's charms, brought to you by PopCap, the people who bought us the also highly habit-forming Bejeweled, and Plants vs Zombies, the game revolves around a brightly coloured ball-spitting frog, who longs to join the likes of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft when it comes to exploring ancient monuments. But instead of avoiding boulders, leaping across gaps and procuring ancient treasures, Mr. Frog sits himself on a lillypad in the middle of a winding track and spits marbles at the snake of coloured balls that rolls along it - match three of the same colour, and they'll inexplicably explode, and it's your job to ensure none of the marbles reach the hole at the end of the track. It may be a bit of a peculiar way to raid tombs, but he seems happy enough, with an ever-present goofy smile on his face - and it makes for a rather addictive match-3 game too, so we're not complaining.
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In terms of modes, though, there's plenty to keep you busy here. First comes the Adventure mode, which attempts to provide something of a story to tie a series of levels together. As far as we can tell, it involves something along the lines of the Zuma frog being shipwrecked on an island filled with tiki-faced bosses who're determined to eat you - it makes no real sense, but then it doesn't really need to. Each level starts with a continually rolling snake-like string of coloured balls, and it's up to you to spin your froggy around, and fire matching coloured balls at them to make them disappear - rid the screen of all of the marbles, and you'll have completed the level. As with a lot of the games of this ilk, every so often you'll come across a special marble that effects the ones around it - from an explosive one that takes out those surrounding it, one which sends the entire string rolling backwards, or a ball that can remove all the like-coloured ones from the screen in one go.
Besides these standard levels, with their different shaped wiggly tracks, Zuma's Revenge throws in the odd different challenge for a bit of variety. Mostly keeping the basic premise the same, in that you still need to match up coloured balls to clear the screen, some levels require you to hop between two different lilly pads to complete the level, or even fix your frog to a horizontal rail at the bottom of the screen. Perhaps the most drastic departure comes every ten levels or so, when you get to face off against one of the boss characters - hiding behind a rail or two of marbles, you'll need to blow holes straight through the middle of their defences before you can hit them. Often, you'll need to defeat their minions first before you get a chance to show them who's boss - or you might need to use an explosive power up ball to injure them - all whilst they're firing things at you, to confuse you, or slow you down. As crazy as things may sound, though, while boss fights can sometimes strike fear into the hearts of players, in Zuma they're rarely ever annoying and can almost always be defeated on the first try.
If you do run into any difficulties during the game, though, you can always head over to the new Spirit Temple. In here, you'll find four different guardian animals, such as a monkey or cheetah, which represent various abilities, such as the amount of points you get for picking up bonus fruit, or the speed your frog can spit at. As you finish each level, you'll unlock a number of medals - one for beating a level, and one each for getting more than a certain score, and finishing under a certain time, and it's these you can spend on upgrading your abilities. Far from simply offering a way to upgrade your frog, though, they give the game that "one more go..." quality that PopCap games so often have, and will likely see you playing the same level over and over again until you get that last medal, before you look at the clock and realise you've just spent the best part of an hour trying to shave ten seconds off your completion time. And perhaps the best news is that Zuma's Revenge dispenses with lives altogether, letting you retry any levels that go a bit wrong as many times as you like, without forcing you to play through the previous half a dozen again like the original game did - thank God!
While the main meat of the game is the aforementioned Adventure mode, PopCap have provided a few extra little modes to keep you coming back, unlocked at certain points in your adventure. First is the genius Weekly Challenge, where a random level is picked from the oodles in the main game and you're tasked with getting the best score you possibly can - which could turn heated if you have a couple of friends to get the better of on the leaderboards. The other modes include the Iron Frog mode, a seriously devious set of ten levels which you need to clear with a single life, and the Boss Rush option, which is exactly as it sounds, and asks you to beat all eight bosses from the Adventure mode back to back.
With a simplistic concept, and that "one more go" appeal turned up to the max, Zuma's Revenge is sure to have you hooked for weeks to come. Oh Froggy, you - just when we thought it was safe to head back to the Xbox Live Arcade, you drew us in with your brightly coloured charms. Priced at just 800 Microsoft Points (about £6.80) for a more substantial game than the original, now is as good time as any to rekindle that frog/ball relationship, and after all, we all know there's only one thing more beautiful than a couple in love - a quadruple combo 7x score.
Format Reviewed: Xbox 360