There's a fine line to walk when trying to create a sequel to a game as classic and well known as Zuma. You need to retain all the elements of the first game that made it such a classic, while adding enough newness to make people want to buy the sequel. Keep the game accessible enough that first time players can enjoy it, while ratcheting up the difficulty for veteran players looking for new challenges. Fortunately, Popcap has definitely walked that line well while creating Zuma's Revenge and produced yet another winner.
At its heart, Zuma's Revenge is a marble popper (or pebble shooter, whatever you want to call it) game. Fire similar colored marbles at long chains to eliminate them before they reach your skull base and kill you. Simple. Popcap, who has already created several classics in the realm of casual gameplay (and seriously, when is the sequel to Plants vs. Zombies coming out?), did not rest on their laurels when creating Zuma's Revenge. Rather than creating a complete retread of Zuma they have ramped up everything, graphics, music, gameplay, without losing the essence of what made the original game such an addictive joy.
To start, there is actually a hint of a story, mostly given in small snippets during the load screen and in conversations before and during the boss fights. (Yes, boss fights. More on that later.) Once again you are a mighty frog, frantically attempting to survive the hostile attention of several natives (shaman? tikis? what are these guys?) after landing on an island that is anything but welcoming to the average frog. The main Adventure mode progresses to different parts of the island, each with its own unique layout and challenges. In addition to the classic "sit in the middle of the screen and spin around" dynamic of Zuma, Popcap has added the occasional level where the gameplay switches to a bottom slider, or a screen where you, the heroic frog, can hop to different lily pads for a better shot. The game retains the drums, shouts, and other sound effects of classic Zuma while adding new effects and music. All the old power-ups are still there along with a host of new ones to round out gameplay.
Graphically, Zuma's Revenge is a treat. All of the locations are lusher, greener, more realistic, with paths that curve and meander without the sharp edges of Zuma. Beautiful whether played in regular or high-def, the artwork — which retains its Pacific island flair — would be worth lingering on, if you weren't so busy trying to get rid of those darned marbles. Each area of the island has its own distinctive look, from the lonely village to the volcano. There's even a whole section that takes place underwater, with attendant waves and bubbles to enhance the experience.
The meat of the game is the Adventure mode, broken down in the sections of the island, each with its own scenery, gameplay, and boss taunting you as you move towards the end of the section. Halfway through each section you will hit a milestone, denoted by a cheesy tourist postcard, which will allow you to start from there (rather than the beginning) if you lose all of your little froggie lives.
At the end, of course, is the boss fight, a simultaneous marble popping, trash talking, shoot 'em up experience as you fight to clear the marbles and take down the boss (and later, the boss' henchmen as well). Each boss has his own personality and powers, clearly stating his annoyance with you whilst attempting to commit frogicide. You will encounter bosses who control insects, bosses who throw lava, bosses who quote Simon and Garfunkel, and bosses who will let you know that they are extremely irritable. The final boss fight is one of such epic proportions your mouse hand might be numb before it is all over. Once you make it through adventure mode alive you will unlock other, more challenging areas, such as the timed challenge mode (encompassing 70 levels, from easy to insane), Heroic Frog mode (replaying a dventure mode with more difficulty), and eventually Iron Frog mode (a gauntlet type of mode that...well, perhaps you'd better find that one out on your own).
Analysis: From the additional humor, the ramped up graphics, the improved gameplay, there is literally nothing to complain about in Zuma's Revenge. The "spinning" of the little froggie hero is smoother and less "jerky" than the original, making gameplay easier. A convenient "aiming cursor" has been added, allowing for easier shots. The aiming cursor can also be turned off in the options menu for experts who disdain the help. You can also adjust the screen size in the options menu, the music, the sound effects, everything. Popcap has even gone so far as to add a "color blind" mode which will allow those with red/green color blindness to enjoy the marble popping madness. The slight amount of story given is the perfect balance, enough to enhance the humor of the game without bogging it down in details.
With Zuma's Revenge Popcap has hit a homerun. As with the original, you could waste hours and hours playing this game with no end in sight. Humorous, beautiful, addicting, Zuma's revenge includes everything the casual gamer could desire, with 50% more boss fights!