PopCap are back to store shelves with another compilation of their Xbox Live Arcade titles available on disc. As with the previous collection, this has high points and low points. It will, ultimately, only be of interest if you are one of those dwindling number who still haven’t connected your console to the internet or if you fall into the narrow section of the market that has a desire to play all of these games but has not yet bought any of them.
The disc contains Plants Vs Zombies, Zuma, Heavy Weapon and Feeding Frenzy 2. While Plants Vs Zombies is one of the stand out downloadable titles of recent years and Zuma is an accomplished old classic, the other two titles are rarely better than average.[drop]We’ve already spent a lot of time looking at various releases of PvZ and many of you will be quite familiar with it already. You are gradually introduced to more and more plants, lending more and more offensive and defensive weight to your arsenal, as the zombie hoards encroach on your property. It complies perfectly with that well loved PopCap formula of being simple in premise but complex in practice. Levels are balanced well and the later stages can be frantic and intense.
The ubiquitous nature of that game, as well as Zuma, might be detrimental to this collection’s success. Many will already own one or both of those games across one or more platforms. A quick survey around my own capable devices shows Plants Vs Zombies on three different platforms and Zuma on two. Will that blanket availability hamper this disc’s chances of success? It’s difficult to tell, given that the disc – roughly similar in price at retail to the download cost of all four games digitally – is surely aimed at those who aren’t connected.
Zuma is the other star of this collection, again difficult to adequately explain in words. You play as a stone frog, beset by ever-encroaching, variously coloured, stone balls down various winding trackways. You must spit out balls of similar colours to match and dispatch the oncoming line before they reach you. With various power ups and assists, this game is again quite tricky to master but plenty of engaging fun while you try.
Zuma has been around since 2003 on various platforms and although it is still as compelling as ever, the visuals have started to show their age and the fact that it can be played for free or purchased for very little on so many platforms is sure to count against it. At least for those consumers who are capable of getting online.
Heavy Weapon is perhaps the hardest to quantify, at least in terms of appeal, of the games on this disc. It is a kind of linearised two stick shooter in which you control a rolling vehicle that can be directed horizontally (but will always be moving to the right). Your right stick controls your weapon aiming and should be used to destroy the vast number of enemies that approach from the sky or on ground level.
It is entertaining and it should appeal to many but there are likely to be just as many that simply don’t ‘click’ with the game’s mechanics and as such don’t enjoy it. It is certainly not as easily approached as PvZ or Zuma but the silver lining to that slight cloud is that it is also not so readily available so consumers are less likely to already own it elsewhere (or have access to a much cheaper version).
Feeding Frenzy 2 rounds out the compilation with game play that is almost identical to its predecessor, although a bit swifter. The aim here is to guide your fish around the depths, eating smaller fish and avoiding larger fish while you grow in size and rack up points. The inclusion of levels that see you take your fish, Boris, to the surface – leaping for insects and flopping around – are a nice touch but it’s only the icing that has changed here, the cake is still the same.
There are cooperative multiplayer modes as well as some largely forgettable “Party Games” that might appeal if you regularly have friends round for some casual gaming but it’s really more of an evolution rather than a revolution in comparison to the first Feeding Frenzy, which appeared on the first PopCap Hits! Collection.[drop2]The subject of pricing is sure to be one at the forefront of this game’s potential for success. There are certainly at least two games on the disc which are worth experiencing, if you haven’t already. The recommended retail price of the disc comes in at a little over the cost to download each game separately (more so if you shop around for Microsoft Points cards). So why would you buy a disc rather than download them?
That question is answered by the masses of gamers who aren’t connected to Xbox Live but whether they will be large enough in number, or interested enough to hear about these games, is a question which only time will answer.
- Plants Vs Zombies is an absolute delight.
- Zuma is an ageing classic.
- Potentially paying for two games that are not particularly strong.
- Everything on offer is probably cheaper somewhere else.
As with the first volume of PopCap Hits, this is a double edged sword. On the one hand, you get two great games but on the other, you get two fairly mediocre ones. If you are able to download them then we thoroughly recommend letting Plants Vs Zombies into your life and perhaps giving Zuma a chance too, if you haven’t already.[boxout]It’s impossible to be as unequivocal in our praise for Heavy Weapon and Feeding Frenzy 2, although there will certainly be people who love them. Ultimately, this collection isn’t aimed at you (internet-connected types, reading reviews online), it’s aimed at people without an internet connection. For that dwindling number, it’s a reasonable deal. For you? it’s difficult to endorse.