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Gaming Review

'PopCap Hits! Volume 2' (Xbox 360)

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Released on Friday, Mar 11 2011

Gaming Review: PopCap Hits Vol. 2

© PopCap


Also available on: N/A
Publisher: Mastertronic
Developer: PopCap Games
Genre: Compilation

Digital Spy recently reviewed Mastertronic's compilation pack PopCap Hits!, which was released for the Xbox 360 a little over a fortnight ago. Unfortunately, despite the fact that PopCap is one of our favourite developers, the compendium failed to make a great impression, as it came at too high a price and was a little low on "hits". This week sees the release of PopCap Hits! Volume 2, which shares some of its predecessor's problems, but is overall a much better package, offering an improved variety of games and greater value for money.

For those unfamiliar with PopCap, they are the kings of casual games and have released some of the most popular pick up and play titles in the past decade on formats such as the PC, iPhone and even Facebook. With a healthy collection of games available as downloads on Xbox Live Arcade, publisher Mastertronic has plucked some of PopCap's finest and plonked them onto a disc. The aim is to entice those who may not have an internet connection, or much room on their hard drives, as well as the countless people who have simply never bothered with digital downloads. The games on the disc are exactly the same as those found on Xbox Live, but have the added advantage of being available to multiple users. It also works out slightly cheaper to buy the pack instead of downloading the games individually.

Much like the previous collection which had Peggle, PopCap Hits! Volume 2 contains one clear standout title. The game in question is tower defence strategy number Plants Vs. Zombies, which is so good that even Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan. Armed with only a few seeds, a bunch of lawnmowers and a patch of grass, the aim is to stop a horde of invading zombies from reaching the player's house. Different seeds produce different plants, ranging from turret style peashooters to explosive cherry bombs. Some seeds are effective against certain types of zombies but useless against others, and the varying environments and conditions - such as night time levels and swimming pools - give the game an extra layer of depth and difficulty.

With its vibrant visuals, vast array of game modes (including puzzles, mini-games and a survival mode) and simple but surprisingly deep gameplay, Plants Vs. Zombies is undoubtedly the pick of the bunch in Mastertronic's latest collection. Fortunately, however, it's joined by an improved selection of additional games such as ball-busting puzzle game Zuma. The aim of Zuma is to stop a trail of multicoloured orbs from rolling into a skull shaped hole at the end of a winding track. Players control a rotating stone frog and are able to make the orbs explode by shooting matching coloured balls into the trail to make chains of three or more. Although a little plain in comparison to sequel Zuma's Revenge, the Aztec surroundings and tribal music create a great atmosphere, and the panic inducing sound effects when the orbs are closing in on the exit adds an extra layer of tension to a game where speed, accuracy and brainpower play an equally important role. Perhaps the biggest problem with Zuma is that there aren't enough game modes, which means that the action can get a little repetitive.

Heavy Weapon, on the other hand, is a game that thrives on repetition. The twin-stick, side-scrolling shooter sees players move a tank with one stick and shoot with the other, while power-ups such as the powerful nuke are activated with the right trigger. In order to survive the game's 19 themed levels, players must shoot everything in sight, collect power-ups and battle bosses, but like all good shooters of old, it's a winning formula that's extremely satisfying and highly addictive. There's also an intense survival mode, which bombards the player with an endless barrage of bullets and bombs and becomes even more chaotic when played co-operatively with three other people. While it may not have the depth of Plants Vs. Zombies or test the grey matter like Zuma, Heavy Weapon's ballsy, back to basic gameplay and thrilling multiplayer makes it one of the best games on the collection.

Unfortunately, Feeding Frenzy lets the side down once again, and despite the sequel vastly improving on the original, Feeding Frenzy 2: Shipwreck Showdown is still too shallow and simple to provide any lasting appeal. The premise remains identical to its predecessor and sees a little fishy attempt to become the king of the ocean by eating its way up the food chain. There are a number of improvements that are instantly recognisable - such as a bigger play area, better visuals and new power-ups - plus there are levels that allow the fish to jump out of water, or have been blacked out and can only be illuminated by eating plankton. These additional challenges help to inject a bit of variety into the game, but once the short-lived story mode has been completed, there isn't any reason to come back for more.

Although much more consistent than the previous volume, PopCap Hits! Volume 2 is still not the prime selection of PopCap games that it could be. Throw in Peggle in place of Feeding Frenzy 2 and this becomes a five star release, but as it stands you're still paying for games that you may not necessarily want, making it tough to recommend to anybody that has the ability to download the games individually. It is, however, perfect for those not connected to Xbox Live or for those wishing for a more convenient way to play the games. It may not be perfect, but the more varied game selection and the higher standard overall makes Mastertronic's latest offering much more hit than miss and is worth checking out.


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