One of the Best Match 3 Games Around
Zuma Deluxe is a rockstar of the match 3 puzzle genre, truly offering up some of the best gameplay this kind of puzzle has to offer. The premise of this game is unique and strange in the best of ways; the action never stops and it's practically impossible to get bored with this title. For longtime fans of the match 3 genre, this game is a must own; anything less is practically a sin. For those new to the genre, there is no better introduction; it doesn't get much better than this.
Gameplay is a Blast!
In Zuma Deluxe, you play as a stone frog idol capable of coughing up colored orbs of power. His orb colors correspond with the orb colors on the game board and they all disappear if a match of 3 or more are made. The boards are really interesting and vary wildly from one level to another; the first level is a simple spiral but others are a lot more complex. In essence, the orbs roll down grooves in the game board like marbles on a track and the tracks are in all different shapes. The location of the frog changes up somewhat too, which alters the shooting trajectory considerably.
Now, the goal of players is to match balls with speed and accuracy. These are important because at the end of the track is a large golden mouth just waiting for the chain of balls to get long enough to reach it. If this strange golden mouth gets a taste of these balls it will promptly chow down on the frog idol. This means game over, or at least a lost life.
The gameplay sounds a lot weirder than it actually is when players are playing the game themselves. It all seems natural somehow, and it only takes one practice run for new players to get their bearings. If you're tired of games that require Olympic style training just to be decent at, this is the game for you.
Vibrant Graphics, Awesome Sound, Great Programming
The theme of this game is Aztec based and puts a lot of focus on animals, gold and carved stone. The backgrounds of each level are lush and well done without crossing the line into photorealism; the graphics stay soft yet vibrant and the puzzle is always easy to see throughout gameplay. There are no big explosions when the pieces are correctly matched, but if you look closely you'll see that they change into fine dust and then fade away. The detailing in this game never fails to be impressive.
The music is high quality and never obtrusive during gameplay. Sure, it's loud and bold at the start of the game before the puzzles are started with all the chanting and such, but once it's time to get down to business the game quiets down into the perfect, low key background music. This music keeps with the theme and is undeniably tribal, but it actually seems to sharpen focus, at least in this reviewer's opinion. Will I buy the soundtrack to Zuma Deluxe? No, but it's fun during the game itself and manages to add to the experience rather than take away.
This game is clearly programmed well with no glitches or hiccups. The balls always shoot exactly as expected, and this is very important during higher levels or when getting into fancier styles of gameplay.
Two Different Modes Keep Things Interesting
Players will likely opt to play through the adventure mode at first, and this plays out exactly as the name implies; start at level 1 and work up through the final level. There are 20 different temples to explore and defeat before a player can say they've beat the game. If this were the entire game it would be an instant classic right there with nothing else needed. However, there is also a gauntlet mode that adds a surprising amount of value to this already impressive title.
Gauntlet mode is essentially survival mode where players try to survive as long as possible through select boards found in adventure mode. Initially, this sounds like it could potentially be a bit boring but it's not at all; it's very exciting and fun. The levels look the same as they did in adventure mode, but the gameplay is now endless, growing ever faster as time goes by.
As players survive, the game starts giving them titles; the first is Rabbit, then Eagle, Jaguar and Sun God. The title system gives this endless mode some much needed structure, and players will be tempted to constantly improve their score.
Simple to Learn, Harder to Master
This game is intuitive and easy to understand, yet there is plenty of room for players to grow. In order to be a Zuma genius, one must master the art of gap shots, chain shots and the skillful use of power ups in order to maximize their points.
A gap shot is created when a player successfully shoots and matches balls through a gap in the line, usually created by another match made right before. These shots are rare and difficult, so their point value is through the roof.
A chain shot is created by making match after match in rapid succession without missing a shot. These are hard to maintain since it's pretty much an inevitability that there will be one yellow ball here or one red there. These single fragmented balls often put an end to chain shot hot streaks.
Power ups such as backwards balls, accuracy balls and bomb balls randomly appear on the board and will only activate if the player blows them up in time. They will disappear quickly, so players have to get a move on.
As players become more accustomed to the game these unique elements may be used to create higher scores than ever before, giving the game some serious replay value.
Pure Match 3 Action
This is a straight up match 3 puzzle game, and so those who seriously dislike the genre would do well to avoid this title. Zuma has clearly chosen to do one thing and one thing well, and this approach has really paid off for them. There is something of a storyline mixed in with all that action, but it's not even really worth noting. Those who expect a game to provide a storyline will likely be disappointed by Zuma's lack of developed storytelling. The story that is there is humorous, but no one would accuse it of having depth.
Conclusion -- A Superb Gem of a Game
Overall, Zuma Deluxe is the type of game that doesn't come around everyday. It's fun, fast, thought provoking and challenging. This classic match 3 style game has some serious addictive qualities that make it great for almost anyone.
Review by Alice Flynn
Alice Flynn is a gaming enthusiast and journalist from Los Angeles, CA. She is currently obsessed with obscure foreign dramas, making tofu taste edible and the latest, greatest computer games.
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