Review: PopCap Hits

PopCap are renowned for their relatively simple gameplay mechanics which provide an utterly compelling, almost to the point of becoming addictive, experience. They have forged a path through what most might term the “casual” market which has seen not only exceptionally strong market performance but exceptionally good critical performance too.

This latest release is nothing new, it’s a compendium of four of their XBLA games packaged onto a disc and sold at a budget rate (RRP is roughly half the usual for a disc-based game). You get Astropop, Bejeweled 2, Feeding Frenzy and Peggle on the disc and each comes with its own set of achievements.

As with all compilations, there are elements which are good and those which are not so good. PopCap Hits is split precisely down the middle. Bejeweled 2 and Peggle are both strong titles while Astropop and Feeding Frenzy will appeal to a more limited selection of people.

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[boxout]Astropop is a colour match puzzle game themed around a sci-fi space setting. You control a small spaceship as coloured blocks gradually descend from the top of the screen. Your task is to grab the blocks and reorganise them to create a group of four or more of the same colour, at which point they will explode and clear up some space. It’s fairly standard stuff with little to alter the core gameplay mechanics as you progress. There is the addition of the standard exploding blocks and other specials but it’s nothing you won’t have seen done before, possibly in a more accomplished manner.

Bejeweled 2 is another colour-match puzzler with a different approach. You start with a full board of mixed up gems and you must swap them around to create groups of four or more and clear areas of the board (which are then recovered as all the gems fill in from above). While the concept is simple, and similar things have been done countless times both before and since the game’s original release, Bejeweled 2 still manages to be one of the best examples of the genre.

Feeding Frenzy is slightly more difficult to explain. You play as a fish, eating smaller fish and avoiding larger fish. When you eat a certain amount, you will grow larger yourself and be able to munch on those previously dangerous fish you were avoiding. There are various ways to maximise your points scoring, including special objects and the eponymous feeding frenzy which sees you build up to a score multiplyer based on how quickly you can binge eat. It’s not the greatest game in the world but as a casual time waster it is enjoyable enough.

Peggle is the final addition to the collection and it is one that we have had a well documented love affair with. It sounds simple, almost random, when explained but in reality it is exciting and nerve-wracking in equal measure. You start with a screen filled with pegs, some of which are orange. Your aim is to eradicate the orange pegs by firing ten silver balls in succession at the board. Contact with any peg causes your ball to bounce and the peg to disappear (after a time delay). Work your way through the Peggle Masters, each with their own special ability that alters the gameplay in some way, and you will be awarded the rank of Peggle Master yourself.

Ultimately, while each game can of course be judged on its own merits, we should look at this as a collection. The individual games can be purchased for download at approximately the same price as they add up to as a disc-based game so it is difficult to imagine anyone other than the dwindling numbers of disconnected console users finding value in this package. Paying for two games which are merely average might not be economically advisable when the two really solid titles are available by other means for a lower overall outlay.

We would much rather have seen Zuma and the unrivalled Plants Vs Zombies on the disc instead of Astropop and Feeding Frenzy – and would happily have paid slightly more for that luxury. That switch of two mediocre titles for two very good ones would have made this package almost unmissable for anyone who didn’t already own half of it. As it is, if you already have Peggle in some form and don’t mind playing a cheap clone of Bejeweled 2 (of which there are dozens, some for free) then there’s nothing here that you should go out of your way for.

Of course, that’s not to say that Astropop and Feeding Frenzy aren’t worth your time. Both are reasonably enjoyable games that have the potential to capture your imagination if you’re that way inclined. Undoubtedly though, the strong titles on the disc are Bejeweled 2 and the fantastic Peggle. Even both of these games are surpassed now with the Peggle Nights DLC available everywhere and Bejeweled 3 recently arriving on the PC/Mac.

Pros:

  • Two great casual puzzle games on the disc.
  • Convenient for those without ‘net connections.

Cons:

  • Paying for two games which are merely average.
  • Nothing new.

The choice you will have to make when standing in front of this disc in a retail outlet is going to be entirely based on your situation. This is not something we can recommend to everyone as it’s likely that any interested party will already own some part of this collection. If you don’t already have any of the games on this disc then we can happily recommend Bejeweled 2 and Peggle. Whether you will want to buy the disc and also get the less endearing titles is your own choice but as it seems obvious that you have an internet connection (since you’re reading this) we would advise you to check the download store prices before you make any purchasing decisions.

Score: 6/10

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3 Comments

  1. I agree. Would have been nice to see Plants vs Zombies on there. I already have Peggle and Bejeweled 2 so will pass on this one.

  2. Same here, already own Peggle and Bejeweled 2 so wont be picking this up myself.

    Its not a bad deal really though considering it’ll be half price in a month or so.

  3. my son loves the fish game, no reason to shell out for the multipack without PvZ though.

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