Zuma Review

Developer: Astraware Publisher: Astraware
Release Date: January 6, 2005 Also On: PC and Zodiac

Another puzzle game from Astraware; we have to find out if this is one of the better ones. I do not have to think long about that before I can answer it positively. It is a very well done puzzle game with unique gameplay. The special thing about it, however, is the Inca style that is accomplished through great visuals and music. As most puzzle games, Zuma is 2D and that is why it was possible for Astraware to convert it to the Palm OS from PC, without changing anything important.

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In Zuma you play a stone frog loaded with a colored ball. You are faced with a line of colored balls slowly winding along a fixed path. Your task is to clear this line before it touches the end of the path where there is death waiting for all those sympathetic colored balls. What do you do to save them (and yourself from losing)? Shoot the colored ball in your mouth at a group of two or more balls of the same color and they’re cleared. When you have collected enough points for a level, the endless line of balls will end and you only have to clear what is left in the level before it commits suicide.

If disappearing balls cause another group of three or more balls of the same color to form, you get additional points. Combos like that help you to clear a lot of balls at once and they are very important in later levels. It is almost impossible to finish those without combo moves, because you have to acquire the necessary number of points to stop new balls from coming in as fast as possible. There are some special balls that when cleared slow down the incoming balls or cause a small explosion. Then there are bonus coins that give you quite some points but they are often difficult to reach because there are balls in the way.

Levels are grouped into stages. After clearing three stages there is a little part of the “story� (weird broken English that does not make too much sense) and then the same levels are repeated. Increasing difficulty is accomplished by adding levels, increasing the number of required points and adding another color so that it gets more difficult to group balls of the same color. Variety of levels comes from interesting design paths for the balls. Sometimes they disappear and go on under the ground for a while, cross each other and get increasingly chaotic.

A small problem is that there is one level in each stage that is significantly more difficult than the others. It is always the level with two snakes of balls instead of one. This could be balanced a little better. It never gets frustrating though, because your playing will improve with time and after you have finish the game there is still replay value from starting at the beginning again to improve your place in the global highscore list.

The graphics of Zuma are good 2D with some cool effects, but it can slow down if there are lots of balls on-screen and the menus feel a little unresponsive, because they sometimes take seconds to react. The sound makes Zuma’s atmosphere complete. Especially the heartbeat-like music if your line gets close to the end of the level adds a lot.

This is without doubt one of the best action-puzzle games on the Palm platform and personal computer. Zuma plays as nice with the stylus as it does with a mouse. If you like the demo, you can be sure to find more of the same fun in the full version.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 9.5
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 8.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 8.7
Written by Ortwin Review Guide

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