Venice is an arcade-style action puzzle game that takes some of the best elements of Peggle and Breakout and combines them into something new (and utterly fascinating). You control a ship floating on the waters of Venice. Various items appear atop your vessel, such as stars, coins, jars and hearts, and it's your job to fire them into the empty slots hovering above. Fill all the gaps in the objects to cause them to vanish and continue your quest to save the sinking city.
Just like any successful casual game, Venice is extremely simple to play. Move your craft back and forth using the mouse and fire items by pressing the left mouse button. You can use curved and angled obstacles to ricochet items and fill out-of-the-way holes lingering at the top of the screen. If you miss, however, the object will fall back to the water and you'll lose a life. Catch falling items in order to keep your ship afloat!
The key to activating power-ups and getting a good score in Venice lies in chain reactions. The empty spaces placed on movable objects are all over the screen, but if you manage to fill a gap near the top, a chain reaction is born. For example, fire a star piece and fill a hole at the top of the screen and it topples down, filling multiple star gaps below. Doing this often sends power-ups leaping out (such as Cupid who helpfully places items high on the screen) which can make your game a lot easier.
Analysis: Venice has its fair share of magic to dispense to hungry casual gamers, but it falls just short of that special something that compels you to never stop playing. It's an immediately captivating game that, unfortunately, hits a slight gameplay lull after half an hour of playtime. It isn't until 15 or 20 levels into the game that the challenge picks up. At that point the level design suddenly gets very creative, things get really interesting, and Venice pulls you in like quicksand on a cheesy Western.
The backdrops of old Venice are gorgeous, but the game's effects could use a little more spice. Compare, for example, the dramatic music and zooming effects of Peggle. And while the ricocheting and object-spinning keeps things active, Venice comes off as a bit stiff at times and could use a little dynamism in the visual department.
Although Venice isn't as outrageously addictive as some recent PopCap releases, it still has that magic that pulls you in and won't let go.