Zuma, PS3 - Review

Review by Will Templeton

"It is addictive, isn't it?"

My mother is not the type of person that you would say was au fait with an analogue stick. Or, rather, you would, but it would be accompanied by a devilish grin, a raise of the eyebrow, and an elbow to the ribs. Sat with a Dual Shock 3 in hand, though, she's powering through levels of Zuma that I've never even seen before.

She's not alone. Thousands of people worldwide log onto PopCap's website each month to play the games they have to offer, and Zuma has been one of their top games since its launch in 2003. People log in on their lunch breaks every day to match gems of three different colours together. It's a behaviour that we as enthusiasts perhaps have a little trouble understanding - the market is saturated with the Zumas and the Bejeweleds and everything in between. But what I'm seeing here is a link between what I like to do for entertainment, and something that gets my mum invested and engaged.

"I'd better slow down, I have to get to work tomorrow. But I can see why you don't sleep. It gets you fired up."

Aren't those familiar words to all of us? Playing online with some friends, with the promise to yourself that you'll go to bed after just one more match - and it ends up being 2am. Playing until just the next save point, and then being intrigued enough to carry on, and then having done so much that it would be a waste not to go to the next save point. To PopCap's audience, the concept of 'one more go' isn't to fight another strategic battle, or see more of an epic story unfold - it's to match more sets of three gems together, and challenge themselves on a much more basic level.

"Oh my God, look at this; look at the tunnels! Holy bloody shit. I can't see where it's going."

I've never heard my mother swear like that before. However, she hits it on the first try. She sits back, breathes a sigh of relief.

"It's not easy, that one. Oh, this looks like a shit one as well. Bugger, there's two of them."

I'm looking at the greater mechanics of the game - I know that I have to set up chains, I have a certain mindset that tells me automatically that I should fire earlier in the chain than nearer the hole, and that I should fire through gaps whenever possible for the bonus. She doesn't, yet. She's learning the techniques, and I'm watching it unfold as she focuses on only one string of gems as opposed to another, and the level ends before she knows it. I explain what happened. She starts it up again with the new knowledge, and clears the level again. It won't be long before I have to wrestle the controller from her to prevent her surpassing me.

There's a certain quality to Zuma that I'm not sure I would have seen if I hadn't passed the controller to someone less acquainted with games. This review would have been terse, a quick reminder that you've played this game before and five that are astoundingly similar. I'm reminded, though, that there's a reason we keep seeing these kinds of games crop up over and over. They're a link between the basic and advanced reasons we play games. My mother likes that she can set up a small chain and watch them cascade away from the hole. We both like that it challenges us just enough to give a sense of accomplishment, but not too much to annoy us into submission. And I appreciate that I can link up my PSP with Remote Play and continue my progress in bed.

"There's your coin," I say. "Down at the bottom."
"Bollocks to the coin."

Oh, Christ. She just got a Trophy that I don't have. I just need to have one more go...

Will Templeton is a contributing writer and podcast producer for SavyGamer. You can find more of his musings and tomfoolery at continueorquit.com.

360 Arcade price hike

In a similar move to what Nintendo did in March, Microsoft are increasing the price that they charge retailers for 360 Arcade consoles by £30.

Eurogamer has the details:

Retailers have told Eurogamer that Microsoft will increase the price of the Arcade Xbox 360 bundle to £159.99 (from £129.99) starting 1st September. The five XBLA games will no longer be included in the bundle, either.

ShopTo boss Igor Cipolletta received confirmation from Microsoft this morning, as did a corroborating independent retail chain source.

We're also told that Microsoft will bump the price of individual Xbox 360 accessories by one or two pounds. Our independent retail source said this is being done to counteract the poor pound-to-Euro currency exchange rate.

Furthermore, the email from Microsoft to retailers mentioned only Arcade and Elite bundles. This strengthens rumours that the Premium Xbox 360 bundle is being discontinued.

I think here are some key points to take from this:

The currency excuse is smoke and/or mirrors. If currency was the reason for this price change, then how come in the past when the currency situation was reversed, how come the UK did not receive any discounts? The price increase is simply because it is more profitable for Microsoft to charge more. That's fine, and certain not evil, but treating their customers like morons with PR speak bullshit about currency fluctuations helps no one.

I've never thought that the Core or Arcade system has been good value. I think it's a shame that there are 360s out their without hard drives, since developers can't assume that they are there, which is a significant step backwards from the original Xbox. I imagine that the value of having a hard drive, and the functionality it provides is worth way more than the difference in cost between the Arcade and the Pro to most people. If they are indeed removing the 60gb Pro console from the market, and the Elite stays at £229.99 RRP, then the 360 just got a lot worse value. I can't see how they could keep selling the 60gb alongside the Arcade, when its RRP is £169.99, £10 than the supposed new price for the Arcade (assuming retailers don't absorb the price difference entirely).

A 60gb pro console is £159.89 delivered right now. An excellent deal too.