PopCap Games is probably best known for its sublime puzzler, Bejeweled. Hugely successful, with more than 5 million sold since 2001, Bejeweled was recently inducted into the Computer Gaming World Hall of Fame, the first puzzle game to be honoured like this in more than 20 years. It has also spawned a huge army of clones. You know the kind of thing, blobs on a grid that you have to line up according to shape, colour, size or something and producing points related to how many you link up in a single go.
I have been a huge fan myself, on many different platforms from the PC through to the PDA and most recently my iPod. So I was rather excited when PopCap asked if I would like to take an early look the first game the company has developed from the ground up specifically for the mobile phone market: Chuzzle for mobile.
OK, puzzler fans, I know what you are thinking. Chuzzle has been around for a while. And it has, since 2005 for both the PC and web play in fact. But it has taken a lot of time to redevelop it for the mobile phone platform, and the devotion to this task shows. It was never the most complex of games to play, but the game mechanics have been simplified even further so as to take full advantage of the input controls found on the most popular models of mobile phones. What this means, mobile gamers, is that it plays faster and more intuitively than ever.
The idea is simple enough, and somewhat exploits the popularity of Bejeweled in that it is really something of a furry clone of that classic. In Chuzzle, you have slide rows of cute and furry Chuzzles (think pom-poms or Tribbles for the hard-core Star Trek fans with long memories) to create vertically or horizontally matching sets of three or more sneezing and giggling Chuzzles of the same colour. Do that and according to PopCap they will "explode with happiness" although it’s more a case of them popping with a chipmunk-alike noise. Of course, just like those Star Trek Tribbles the Chuzzles multiply as fast as you can explode them, with more dropping down onto the screen to fill the gaps.
It sounds corny and rather dull, but like all these puzzlers the reality is that it’s perfectly pitched for mobile play. Indeed, you are in danger of missing your station or stop, so addictive and absorbing the gameplay is. Play it on the train with caution, my friends.
There are four modes available:
Classic – original Chuzzle in old skool glory
Expert – as above, but a lot harder
Mindbender – which requires you to create patterns rather than simple lines
Zen – the ever popular endless Chuzzling mode with no levels or locks
The inclusion of dynamic level generation ensures that you never see the same game twice, no matter how much you play. And I can confirm this as I have been playing it for a whole month now, for at least an hour or three a day, without getting bored.
The trouble with Tribbles, as Trekkies will recall, is that they multiple like, well, Tribbles. That is kind of the trouble with Chuzzles as well, it has to be said. There are already versions for other platforms, most notably the Web. Considering that the online version is free to play, and available right now, PopCap might find they have a hard time persuading mobile users to cough up for a local version in their pockets.
Mind you, the first network to make the game available, 02, is only charging £5 for Chuzzle and I have to admit, I can’t think of many things that have kept me amused for so long for so little.
Annoying, addictive and absorbing. What more could you want in a time wasting puzzler?