So, Zuma. I like to imagine the pitch for Zuma in my head, and while I've thought of hundreds of combinations over the years they usually go like this:
"It's basically a match-three puzzle game," a beleaguered designer would mutter as he pitches the idea to a senior executive across a gargantuan but tastefully modest oak table. Here, thanks to flashbacks of Bejeweled, the executive's brain would turn into an overexcited calculator, his eyes would light up with dollar signs and the sound of a cash register would ring his ears. Spurred on by this warm reception, the employee would continue. "It's also a game where..." here the poor employee's voice would falter, worried for what comes next, "you shoot balls out of the mouth of a possibly magical but nonetheless happy toad."
It's at this point the executive would take the cigar out of his mouth and, speaking slowly but forcefully, resentment thick in the air, ask "a magic toad?"
That didn't happen, of course: Zuma was developed and sold about six hojillion copies. Why Zuma's Revenge, which was released on PC in 2009, has taken three years to cross over to Xbox LIVE Arcade is beyond me. Still, I'm guessing most Zuma players probably won't have played the game in years - which makes this recently released Xbox LIVE Arcade version a refreshing puzzler and also a nice stroll down memory lane.
The core of the game has you flinging coloured marbles out of your mouth at a snaking procession of fellow (enemy?) marbles following a wobbly line around the screen. Marbles of the same colour stick to one another, so you'll end up gob-blasting little clumps of colour before having them promptly disappear. While the difficulty level is quite a lot lower than the fingernail-shredding level of the original, there's some loose strategy based on power-ups, thinking a couple of moves ahead and chaining moves into snazzy combos, with the resulting explosions of colour lighting up the screen like a nail bomb made of skittles.
'The resulting explosions of colour light up the screen like a nail bomb made of skittles.'
Zuma's Revenge also features speed-based multipliers and boss battles, where you need to blast open holes in the environment before firing marbles into the face of nasty island devils. So it goes. Then there's a weekly challenge mode designed to keep you booting it up every now and then, but success here depends entirely on whether you've got a group of friends who are also playing.
New to the 360 version are various spirits you can level up for a little bit of extra flair and ability, which helps complement the proceedings with the kind of breadcrumb progression trails console gamers seem to love. Less important is the more-challenging Iron Frog and Boss Rush modes, which feel like they're just bolted-on in an attempt to juice a bit more value out of your 800 Microsoft Points.
Still, while perfectly entertaining Zuma Revenge doesn't quite have the playful thoughtfulness of Bejewelled, Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies. This gobby toad's main (and best) draw is the bouncy fun of his game's kinetic energy - there's a playful satisfaction you get from blasting away pockets of colour at high speed, spinning around your sticks and pinging away at the trigger.
Zuma doesn't quite pop off the screen and infest itself into you brain like PopCap's bigger hits, but there's some entertaining, though slightly gentle, puzzles to be had within its therapeutic confines.