Zuma's Revenge Review (Xbox360)

For fans of the series, Zuma's Revenge is a pretty great package, even if some might find things a little too easy. Zuma's Revenge dispenses with the need to be careful. No longer are there a restricted number of lives, or the threat of being thrust back to the start of a stage. Instead, the popular ball matching game feels even more casual than before. That's not strictly a bad thing though. While it won't take players long to traverse the new Adventure mode, there are a sufficient number of other features included to make the 800pt asking price seem worthwhile.

The aforementioned Adventure mode includes six stages, comprising of 10 levels within, plus boss battles. It sounds meaty but with the vast majority of levels taking less than 2 minutes to complete, it won't take long to finish this mode. Players are encouraged to be as quick as possible with level specific goals aimed at completion, beating a target score and beating a target time. In the early stages, this will be easily done first time but later stages will require repeated attempts thanks to the added challenge. Adventure Mode attempts to mix things up a little by including different ways of moving around the screen. While the typical Zuma format of being stuck to one spot and rotating 360 degrees to see around is there, some stages involve leaping between two lilly pads to get to other areas of the level, or sliding up and down a straight path in the middle of the arena. The stages consisting of lilly pads prove most challenging as it's essential to remember to switch at regular intervals, as well as swap between ball colours.

Action might look frantic but it hardly takes any time at all to get 'in the zone'

The boss battles manage to be both the most interesting inclusion to Zuma's Revenge and also the weakest new feature. The challenge is rarely great. At times, it'll just be a matter of dodging around the flurry of balls that rotate around the arena, while lining up a shot on the boss. Others are more challenging with the need to line up bomb power-ups to weaken a boss's shield. They rarely feel as foreboding as one would expect though. Having played the game on the PC, I actually found the XBLA version easier. Whether that was due to using a controller over a mouse or whether the difficulty level has been tweaked, I'm not sure.

While Adventure Mode isn't especially hard, it is enjoyable to play through. Gaining all the medals for completing specific level goals helps boost the spirit animals that can be used to unlock faster shot speed, more power-up balls and bonus fruits. Players can choose to opt out of these spirit animal boosts but they do prove very useful in time, especially for those aiming for the higher scores on the leaderboard. The power-up bonus is particularly useful as it helps immensely in clearing significant sections of the screen quickly. Power-ups are quite weighty at times with a laser that removes all balls of the same colour as well as a bomb that clears a large area at once.

Boss battles change what's expected of the player

The real challenge comes from the addition of three new modes: Boss Rush, Iron Frog and Weekly Challenge. Boss Rush simply pits players against every boss in the game, asking them to beat them in the fastest time possible. Iron Frog offers up 10 extremely difficult levels that must be completed in only one life. Despite being a long term player of Zuma, I found myself routinely beaten by this mode. Its difficulty curve is much more akin to the original game's.

Weekly Challenge mode takes advantage of XBox Live integration. Each week, a single level is taken from Adventure Mode with players asked to gain the highest score possible. It's essentially a leaderboard challenge but, much like the appeal of Facebook game Zuma Blitz, it's addictive when a few friends happen to also play. This leaderboard integration features prominently in the rest of the game. During the Adventure Mode, it's possible to see which friends have already attained high scores on a level with it updated on the fly. It's a great mechanic for encouraging competitive sorts to keep returning for just one more go. That's as far as Xbox Live integration goes, however, with no inclusion of a much sought after multiplayer mode.

Spirit animals make things a lot easier, but there's always the option to bypass them

Conversion to the Xbox 360 has clearly been taken into account throughout Zuma's Revenge's development. For example, a coloured arrow consistently shows where the ball is going every time, ensuring that precise shots are more achievable. Something that was previously harder to do with an Xbox 360 controller.

Some of the challenge of the original Zuma is clearly gone. The earlier game is one that despite years of practicing, I've still not managed to complete. In contrast, Zuma's Revenge could be completed in an afternoon. It's that aim for perfection that ensures that players will want to return for more. Completing every level specific goal as well as the fearsome Iron Frog mode should mean that there are plenty of hours of fun to be had, before even considering the Weekly Challenge mode that lends itself to repeated sessions. It's the ideal antidote to more blood thirsty titles.

Top Game Moment: Lining up a combo move perfectly and clearing half the screen with just one ball.

Platform Played: Xbox 360

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