And while we’re on this end of the alphabet, I might as well look in on Zuma. Or, to give it its full title, Zuma Deluxe — this was made back when PopCap released most of their titles in two versions, a free web-based one and a downloadable Windows-native shareware version with additional features. I think Zuma was the first “deluxe” PopCap game that I actually registered, rather than just playing the demo for the hour allowed and then deleting it. 1Or possibly that was Dynomite. Heck, maybe I did them both at once.

This is because it was their first game that really seemed original, rather than a slight variation on things I had seen before. I mean, look at their catalog up to 2003. Dynomite is essentially the same game as Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move, albeit with an interesting puzzle mode added on. Big Money is the same game as, er, Samegame. Alchemy is a variant of Ishido. Bookworm was admitted to be a cross between Scrabble and Bejeweled (although it always seemed to me that Boggle and Bejeweled is an apter description). Even Bejeweled itself, their flagship title, seemed to me at the time to be a mere variant of Columns. (I was quite surprised when it became a cultural touchstone, much like I was when the same thing happened with The Matrix.)

Whereas with Zuma, the most I could identify is where it stole various specific elements from. Its closest precedent is probably Dynomite, with its match-3 and explosions and gradually advancing doom, and, most particularly, with its swivelling ball-gun that fires in the direction of the mouse cursor. This mouse-based aiming, which would go on to be used in Peggle, is very important to the feel, and is the reason why I identify it as a descendant of Dynomite rather than of Puzzle Bobble.

There was a time when I thought I could see distinctive elements from other PopCap games in Zuma, but frankly, looking at it again now, all that stands out is the “match 3” aspect. Maybe I’ll remember what I was thinking of by the time I write my next post.

[UPDATE: Turns out that Zuma is no more original than the rest of PopCap’s early titles — see the comments for details. My statement that it’s not “a slight variant on something I had seen before” stands, but only because I hadn’t seen the game it was based on.]

1 Or possibly that was Dynomite. Heck, maybe I did them both at once.

3 Comments so far

  1. Jason Dyer on 5 Aug 2009

    Actually, Zuma is such a clone that it resulted in a lawsuit. (Or threatened lawsuit. It’s a little vague.) Here’s the bit from Mobygames:

    Popcap borrowed it from Mitchell Corp.’s 1998 arcade game Puzz Loop/Ballistic. In 2004, President Roy Ozaki intended to file a lawsuit against Popcap for IP infringement. The outcome is not known. Mitchell did however rework the game concept in the 2006 Nintendo DS game Magnetica.

    And here’s some screenshots:


    As far as I know the first “original” PopCap game was Rocket Mania Deluxe.

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 5 Aug 2009

    Good gravy. Puzz Loop even seems to have an ancient-civilizations theme in its backdrops. Zuma sticks with one particular ancient civilization, but still, that’s sticking closer to the source material than I would dare to if I were ripping off someone else’s gameplay.

    It looks to me like Puzz Loop had only one board configuration, though — a simple spiral, similar to Zuma‘s first level. So PopCap did add a little something to the concept.

  3. malkav11 on 6 Aug 2009

    Mm. Bookworm Adventures and Plants vs. Zombies are the only PopCap games I’ve ever bought, personally, for the simple reason that there’s actually some meat on them thar bones. Zuma is at least a little more hypnotically compelling than things like Bejewelled.

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