Zuma Hands-On

We get our hands on Sorrent's upcoming adaptation of PopCap's colorful puzzle game.

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Earlier today at CTIA Wireless IT 2004, we had a chance to try out Zuma, one of Sorrent's upcoming puzzle games. Thus far, the mobile Zuma looks like it will be a faithful reproduction of PopCap's Aztec-themed puzzle shooter--right down to its colorful appearance and combo-based gameplay.

In Zuma, you take control of a legendary stone frog (which apparently has some significance in Aztec mythology) that must intercept a chain of deadly spheres coming down a curved path. If these balls reach a stone head near your frog, you lose the level. To prevent this from happening, you can spin your frog in a full circle and launch multicolored balls at the chain. Link together three balls of the same color and they will disappear, breaking the chain temporarily. This affords you more time to take care of the rest of the chain, and it also allows you to set up combination shots. Overall, the gameplay's a lot like Snood, only with a more linear focus. In addition, Zuma's chains of balls add an interesting puzzle element to the basic shooter mechanic. The game's levels can feature multiple chains that switch back upon each other, forcing you to think carefully about ball placement.

Zuma already features a very pleasing design aesthetic, even at this early stage in development. The chains of balls and stone frog seemed very smoothly animated on the LG VX7000, and the colors of the balls were quite vivid. If the chain gets too close to the stone head, it will yawn open and start radiating beams of energy, increasing the immediacy of your peril. Also, Zuma's tribal-beat music fits in perfectly with the game's Mesoamerican theme.

It's clear that Sorrent has a bit of fine-tuning work to do with Zuma, because the chain's speed toward your stone head and your frog's spin rate could use a little more work. Still, this game seems like it will be very appealing to those looking for a casual but highly polished puzzle experience. Zuma is due out before the end of the year, so we'll have more details on the game as they become available.

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