Bejeweled Releases a Psychedelic Frog on Facebook With Zuma Blitz
Zuma, like many Popcap games, has an odd premise. You control a ball-spitting frog at the center of a spiral-like maze of colored balls steadily rolling towards the open mouths of hungry, golden Gods. Your goals are two-fold: first to prevent the balls from advancing far enough to be consumed by a God mouth — because you’re next on the menu — and second, to earn as many points as possible before time runs out.
Although a bit psychedelic, the aesthetic adds spice to the sometimes routine world of casual games. On Facebook, there’s also a tight one-minute time limit, just like Bejeweled Blitz, which forces you to be think a few steps ahead to maximize points.
As you advance through the game, you level up and earn experience through the number of games you play and how often you avoid being eaten. You also earn Mojo, which is essentially energy, based on the number of balls you destroy in a game. After you move up a few levels, you begin earning Powers. The first you earn is the Bomb, which destroy the balls around it and can be particularly useful in setting off large chain reactions.
Setting off chain reactions is the only way to earn big points in Zuma Blitz. Whenever three or more of the same color ball smash into each other, they explode. Then balls from either end will roll in to fill the empty space and collide. If that results in three or more same color balls colliding, the reaction will continue. Well played hits will set off some very impressive and very high-scoring chain reactions that grant you tens of thousands of points in a few seconds.
Powers are kept in your “Temple” and before each game, you can chose a new Power to use, or stick with the last one. Powers cost Mojo to use each game, but very often pay back what you spend with a higher score. Using different Powers, means adopting different strategies. For instance, using Chrono Balls means you have to sacrifice some shots to destroy the balls that give you more time.
Keeping yourself alive is somewhat independent of destroying balls and earning points. You have to make sure that at any given moment, balls are not about to roll into the open God-mouths. At the beginning of the game, the concentric rings of balls can be a bit baffling, but before long it’s easy to keep your frog from being eaten and focus on scoring more.
Lives, Mojo, Potions and Powers can be bought with the game’s premium virtual currency, Idols. Potions either increase your Mojo or grant you lots of experience points, which allow you to skip levels and unlock Powers. Idols are accumulated slowly throughout the game or can be purchased with Facebook credits. But the game doesn’t always make clear exactly how each Power works until you have it, so neither Potions nor Powers seem as compelling as they could be.
Finally, Popcap has settled on leaderboards and achievements as its main social feature. To the right hand of the main screen, a leaderboard always shows your exact position among your friends; there’s also a stats board for each player showing achievements.
Zuma Blitz is fast, addictive and more dynamic than most casual arcade games, so it’s easy to imagine it gaining millions of players on Facebook, just as Bejeweled has. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait almost two years to see another Plants vs Zombies for Facebook.