Does Zuma have enough potential to become the next Tetris, Bust-A-Move, or Puyo Pop? Read on to find out.
Zuma can best be described as a 360 degree Bust-A-Move. Players take control of a frog centered in the middle of the screen. This frog must then shoot colored (bodily transferred) orbs at an incoming string of other colored orbs. These orbs travel on one set path and, if the player cannot prevent them from reaching the end of that path, the game is then over. If three or more of the same colored orbs are connected, they will explode, and so the cycle continues until the player becomes overloaded. Sound a little simple? Well, that’s because it is. Everything about Zuma is simple but fun, even the pronunciation of the game’s title.
The Palm stylus works well for this particular game because each orb can be shot at any angle. To shoot an orb, the player must tap the screen, and when the stylus is then lifted the frog will launch an orb in the desired direction. However, if the player taps on the frog, the colored orb in his mouth (the next orb to be shot) will be switched with the orb in his butt (the up and coming orb). This also brings a little more strategy to the gameplay.
The graphics are neatly simplistic but manage to rise above the average. Even though there are not a whole lot of things moving on screen, everything contains a decent amount of detail and is always well animated. The music also helps to generate a likeable jungle-Aztec theme.
Zuma is definitely an addictive game, but there are a few subtle problems with it. Firstly, the paths the orbs travel on will often intertwine, and even run beneath themselves in the later, more difficult levels. This often creates a strange 3D effect. The only way the player can determine which line of orbs is placed on top is to fire a few orbs off screen. This will often result in wasted time and can lead to frustration.
Next, the game occasionally breaks away from the gameplay by adding a story sequence concerning the frog and an evil stone statue. This story is composed through broken English, and largely makes little sense. Some videogames play better without an additional, distracting storyline and Zuma is certainly one of them. Zuma is all about obtaining a high score to be proud of, not coaxing a narrative or evolving a central character. The fracturing of the gameplay only succeeds in compromising the attention of the player.
However, minor flaws aside, once played and experienced, Zuma will be directly responsible for sucking away many hours of your life. The addictive nature of the game will make hours seem like minutes. The easy pick-up-and-play gameplay controls and design create a thoroughly enjoyable experience for any age group. However, in order for Zuma to compete with gigantic puzzle games like Tetris or Puyo Pop, future versions will need to support some type of multiplayer aspect. For now, though, Zuma is an exceptional single-player game with which you can joyously expend five minutes or five hours worth of gaming time. If you can’t get a hold of the Palm version of Zuma, check out the PC version or the demo on Xbox Live Arcade.