If anyone can make a puzzle game where you shoot colored balls out of the mouth of a rotating stone frog idol fun its Popcap. The idea might sound bizarre but if you have played games like Puzzle Bobble before you’ll know exactly what to expect. Instead of trying to match up colored bubbles hanging from the top of the screen you are confronted with colored balls rolling down a set path around the frog idol on the way to a drain in the center of the screen.
The idea is simply to match up three or more balls of the same color to make them disappear. The balls keep coming until you have filled a yellow bar at the top of the screen after which you can clear out the remaining ones. If any ball touches the drain however the whole lot will plunge down costing you a life and restarting the level. Some levels have paths that go over and under each other making it harder to line up your shot and some levels even have two separate paths with balls to content with. Since you can only switch between two ball colors at a time and have no control over what color balls the frog shoots next things become very tricky very quickly. Speed and accuracy is very important in this game but unfortunately this is where the controls let things down somewhat. Controlling the direction of the stone idol while shoot the balls using the left analog stick is very tricky and makes it much harder than it should be to perform accurate shots. I have played the PC version of the game as well and a mouse offers far superior control. It is possible to get used to the analog sticks but it will always feel somewhat awkward and imprecise especially when trying to perform accurate shots quickly.
To help you out there are some power-ups that appear on the board and activating these will grand effects like moving the row of balls backward for a short amount of time, slowing their speed down or causing an explosion that will clear out all surrounding balls. Coins will also randomly appear on the level and provide you with extra points if you can hit them before they disappear. Initially just matching colored balls will be sufficient for clearing levels but with more than 20 levels the difficulty soon ramps up. You will have to be able to shoot the ball through small gaps and perform combos very quickly if you want any hope of clearing later levels. Besides the “Adventure” mode there is also a “Gauntlet” where you attempt to set the highest score while a never-ending flow of balls rush past you. The game has no form of multi-player however which is a strange omission for a puzzle title.
Visually the game has an Aztec setting which looks nice but the flat, 2D graphics will definitely put off some people. All I can say is that this is definitely not a game that should be judged on visuals alone. The Aztec theme carries over to the audio as well with some tribal rhythms and chanting going on while you play. It is all very catchy but a bit repetitive.
The game is a lot of fun to play and very addictive but I recommend checking out the demo first so you can see whether or not the controls are going to be an issue for you. One thing is for sure; once you become hooked by this game you can kiss your free time goodbye.
*Review originally published 2005.