Wierd, colorful little worm-like creatures with a hunger for colorful fruit and a penchant for musical instruments. Sounds like the formula for the latest pre-school PBS sensation. Instead, we're talking about a fun, quirky little puzzler called Yumsters! 2.
The goal in Yumsters! 2 is to eat fruit. Lots of fruit. Your yumsters are perpetually hungry, and the only way to satisfy them is to keep them eating fruit. You have to be careful, though, as they'll only eat fruit that is the same color as they are. Red yumsters will only eat strawberries, yellow yumsters won't eat anything but pears, purple yumsters only like the grapes, etc. Drag each yumster from its hole to the fruit and it'll eat until it's gone. The further you can stretch your yumsters to their food, the more points you'll receive. If you can get them to eat multiple pieces in a row, you'll receive a bonus. Another bonus awaits if you can get all of your on-screen yumsters eating at once.
You need to be careful when stretching your yumsters around the screen eating fruit. If you pull them to a piece of fruit that doesn't match color, they will snap back into their hole and will stay there for a few precious seconds before letting you pull them back out. Similarly, if you cross two worms while they are eating, they will both snap back into their holes, leaving their fruit uneaten on the screen. If you need to get a better angle on the fruit, or if you need to get around an obstacle that has been placed in your path, you can move the yumsters from one hole to another.
Of course, you're not just there to feed the little guys. If you notice at the top of the screen, you'll see a line of fruit marching slowly from left to right. This is the task bar, and it shows what fruit must be eaten. If you eat the number of fruit before it reaches the end of the bar, you receive coins as a reward. Should fruit reach the end of the bar, it will drop on to the field and you will receive no reward for eating it. It will also take up a space that is needed for fruit that completes tasks.
In addition to fruit and obstacles, bonuses will occasionally appear on the playfield, such as a rain bonus that will defrost fruit that has frozen from sitting out in the open for too long. Another bonus will stop the task list from moving for a short time. You will also be joined by specialized yumsters who have unique talents, like the sergeant yumster that speeds up the eating of all yumsters on the screen while it's not hungry. Or the demolition yumster that blasts fruit in the area after eating a piece.
At the end of each world, you will be awarded an instrument from the land the world was based on. The quality of the instrument depends on the amount of coins you were able to collect during the previous rounds. Once you've collected your instrument, you need to test it. This launches into a Guitar Hero-esque music game, where you have to click the targets in time to the music. Once you complete this last task, you move onto the next world and the next bunch of fruit to eat. Yum!
Analysis: Having never played the first Yumsters game, this formula was refreshingly new to me. The mechanics of the game are super simple and would be appropriate for youngsters as well as us oldsters who love a good casual gameplay experience. Pull to fruit, eat fruit, switch holes, repeat. It's easy enough to finish the early levels like this, but there's so much more to this game.
Once I got the hang of how the little worms could twist and turn around to reach pieces of fruit that weren't necessarily in line with each other, I began to see where the real strategy in this title was. If you want the big points and the super bonuses, you need to plan where you're yumsters are going to do the most good at any particular time. Sometimes you'll have to sacrifice a good combo to get your yumsters around an obstacle in the course. Other times you'll want to position your worms to chow down quickly on a super-sized piece of fruit on the board. Make sure you don't forget about grabbing bonuses on the board and using your bonus worm powers, as well. If you can balance all of these elements, you'll be successful.
The graphics for Yumsters! 2 are cute and colorful, exactly appropriate for the style of game that developers Kranx (creator of the wonderfully refreshing music-based puzzle game Musaic Box) seem to be going for here. As I said at the top of the review, the Yumsters have the makings of a preschool television hit. You'd be forgiven for surfing the channels trying to find these guys on PBS or Disney in the morning. The color matching of this game makes it an excellent choice for younger players. The one thing that I was disappointed to see missing was a color-blind version, something that has been appearing in many color-based games as of late.
Sound and music in this game are both done well. In particular, the background music for the levels is nicely handled, with a soundtrack that changes in intensity and tempo as things change during gameplay. It really adds to the enjoyment of and immersion in the game when the music gets excited along with the player! The songs at the end of each world that must be completed are based on themes that you will hear during the game, so they have a chance to become familiar before you have to match them at the end.
Yumsters! 2 has a lot going for it. The gameplay is spot-on and the graphics and sounds are well done. It is challenging enough to keep veteran players involved, but simple enough for new and young players to pick up and still have fun with. So, feed a Yumster today, won't you?