Also available on: N/A
Developer: PopCap Games
Genre: Puzzle / Compilation
It's fair to say that here at Digital Spy we enjoy a good PopCap puzzler. Bejeweled 3, Plants Vs. Zombies and Zuma's Revenge all made a huge impression, dazzling us with their uncomplicated yet utterly addictive gameplay. With the list of casual classics that PopCap has at its disposal, a collection of some of the finest games on one disc is enough to make the mouth water. Unfortunately, despite the money players save from purchasing four games in one neat package, not all of the titles would be high on our shopping lists. Still, the likes of Bejeweled 2 and Peggle ensure that the collection is worth checking out, especially for those without an internet connection or with limited room on their hard drive.
The four games on the disc are all Xbox Live Arcade titles dating back as far as 2005. There are no frills or extras, just the same versions of the same games that were reeling in punters during the Xbox 360's infancy and beyond. All previous save files are carried over, as are achievements, which remain at the 200 mark. Quite simply, the idea of this collection is to show XBLA virgins exactly what they are missing. Each of the four games would usually cost 800 Microsoft Points (£6.80) to download, so you are essentially buying four games for the price of three, making it technically very good value for money. Plus, owning the games on disc format removes download limitations, meaning that multiple people can play the games using any Gamertag and on any 360 console.
Of the four games on the disc, the most impressive is puzzle game Peggle, a 2009 Xbox release. The premise of Peggle is ridiculously simple, but as with all of the great puzzle games, the beauty lies in turning a simple concept into something worth playing over and over again. Players must eliminate 25 orange pegs from a board of 100 coloured pegs in ten goes or less. This is achieved by aiming and shooting balls from a cannon situated at the top of the screen. Judging how the balls will bounce and ricochet is essential, as is utilising the different powerups which change depending on the "Peggle Master" in charge of the level. One powerup, for example, extends the size of the catcher at the bottom of the screen, which makes it easier to get lucky bounces, as well as potentially win extra balls. Other powerups include pinball style flippers to keep the ball in play for a longer period of time, or explosive pegs capable of eliminating anything in close proximity. With scores of levels, a versus mode and leaderboards, Peggle has plenty of variety and enormous replayability, making it undoubtedly the main reason to purchase PopCap Hits!.
Not far behind in terms of quality is Bejeweled 2, which is another moreish puzzle game. Standard games of Bejeweled take place on a grid made up of lots of different coloured gems. Points are scored by switching adjacent gems with each other to form vertical or horizontal chains of three. In addition to Classic mode, the Xbox Live version features an exciting Action mode, which is essentially just a race against the clock, as well as the challenging Puzzle mode, which contains a plentiful supply of brain-teasers in a variety of different worlds. There's also the self-explanatory Endless mode, which despite being fairly relaxed and stress-free, is also the dullest of the lot. Unfortunately - perhaps a little unfairly - after recently sampling the delights of Bejeweled 3 its predecessor seems a little light on content, plus the Xbox 360 pad is a little cumbersome in comparison to the mouse and keyboard. However, first time players will find this a more than satisfactory introduction to a delightful franchise.
Unfortunately, the other two games on the disc fail to offer anywhere near the same rewarding and addictive experiences as Bejeweled and Peggle. Feeding Frenzy is simply too shallow (which is ironic as it's set in water) and takes far too long to get going. Starting out as a tiny fish with a big appetite, the aim is to grow bigger and bigger by eating anything of equal or lesser size. Going after the big fish prematurely will result in death, as will swimming into the various obstacles such as chargers and depth mines. The graphics are bright and colourful, the game moves along at a decent pace and a couple of additional moves and bonuses helps to temporarily make things interesting, but the thrills are short-lived and the insufficient challenge early on, coupled with the lack of any real variety, results in a game that is unable to tempt players back for seconds.
Perhaps surprisingly, brick-based puzzle game Astropop is only marginally more enjoyable, which is odd because it doesn't really have any glaring flaws. Players control a moving ship at the bottom of the screen, while at the top of the screen coloured bricks appear one row at a time. With the ship able to pull bricks towards it and shoot them back out, the aim is to match bricks of the same colour in blocks of four. Much like Feeding Frenzy, pretty visuals, additional powerups and various obstacles give the game a little extra depth and lasting appeal, but doesn't stop Astropop from being ultimately rather dull.
Individually, Peggle and Bejeweled 2 would come highly recommended, but in this instance they are weighed down by two average games that lack the addictive qualities normally associated with a PopCap offering. For anybody with access to Xbox Live there really isn't any reason to buy this collection as there are only two games on it worth owning. On the other hand, Peggle and Bejeweled 2 are strong enough games to justify a retail purchase, but only if Xbox Live access is a genuine problem. As a whole, PopCap Hits! is a rather mediocre package that doesn't contain enough hits to justify its title and price.
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