5 Must Play Popcap Games
July 3, 2009, Author: Charles Young
With E3 all neatly wrapped up, and the big three returning to their corporate palaces to feast and slumber, it is easy to move on and forget the that unsung hero who continues to put out those little hits loved by shut in moms and true gamers alike. Popcap is a publisher who has managed to navigate the turbulent waters of the gaming industry since 2000, and still gets along in its little life raft filled with precious gems and zombies. Success can be linked to the fact you can find these games on just about every platform out there. Titles are released for PC, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3, and iPhone just to name a few notable figures in Popcap’s menagerie of developer platforms. With over fifty titles available, and many of them coming from Valve or Xbox Live, there is a good chance you’ve played at least one. If you haven’t, then you should be ashamed and go tar and feather yourself. But first, here are five titles that you should play, and possibly grab a copy of to keep all to yourself.
Peggle was destined to be a classic from the get go. Players are allowed a set number of balls, which they then skillfully launch at colored blocks in an attempt to destroy as many as possible each shot. To advance in stages, you will need to destroy specifically marked boxes scattered throughout the level. There is also a basket at the bottom of the screen which zips back and forth, daring you to try and finish by dropping your ball into the goal… a unique game twist that has certainly never been implemented in any single game before. Ever.
Personally, I love the level designs in Peggle. Sure, it’s a simple enough concept of tracing lines in a picture, by replacing the lines with small destructible blocks which can create more death traps than a spiteful 10 year old with a do it yourself atom bomb kit, but it works.
Zuma is one of those games where an endless train of marbles, orbs, or jaw breakers seem to materialize just off screen in order to fray your nerves to the point of throwing your DS across the room. Zuma has chosen the Aztec theme, as futuristic and atlantis where to cliché for Popcap. Players control a small frog, who generates an orb which is then launched into the oncoming train. Three of the same color destroys those orbs, and any like colors already connected. Game play focuses on setting up chains to roll the entire train back and buy you more time, or you can randomly shoot similar colors at one another and hope for the best.
This is one of those games that can get tricky, with multiple tracks or dead ends that will leave you frantically throwing orbs around like a pack of apes trying to play racquet ball. But the challenge is what these sort of games have always been about, so don’t get butt hurt when you hit a stage that you come to know as more of a nemesis then challenge.
3. Feeding Frenzy
If there has ever been a game that glorifies the destruction of the ocean’s ecosystem, it’s Feeding Frenzy. You are presented with one simple goal: consume every living thing you can fit inside your gluttonous maw. Players control a single fish, which grows as it eats the smaller fish, while avoiding large fish. Eventually your fish will upgrade in size, which allows you to eat the larger fish you were originally avoiding, and you continue to consume until you move on to the next stage. Every couple of stages you receive a bonus round, with a chance to max out scores and more importantly, earn extra fish. After so many stages, you take control of a new species of aquatic predator, and continue your onslaught in the abysmal depths, open water, and reefs throughout the ocean.
The controls have always felt a little slippery, if you’ll excuse the pun. But the game is simple enough to remain entertaining, and makes for the occasional pick up in between important tasks like work, or breathing.
4. Plants Vs. Zombies
One of the newer faces around Popcap is the comical title, Plants Vs. Zombies. I recently played the demo, and immediately turned around and grabbed myself a full copy in exchange for a kidney and a chunk of my productivity. First off, I love tower defense. Second, I love zombies. So when you mix the two, using a collection of oddly expressive plants to defend your home from zombie invasion just seems to make sense. The plants serve as your defense as walls, typical damage turrets, or slowing types to drop your undead enemies dead in their tracks. Cheeky puns aside, the recently deceased themselves come in a large variety, from dolphin riding scuba zombies, to everyone’s favorite moon walking Thriller Zombie who comes complete with his own dancing zombie posse.
This game has a brilliant learning curve, and event most novice gamers would be able to adapt to the steadily increasing difficulty. The game starts simple enough, one lane and one zombie. If you can’t handle that, then throw yourself into submission before your zombie masters before you get the rest of us eaten.
3, 2, 1, Go! Who can forget the flagship title that is Bejeweled? This is still one of the most successful titles under Popcap’s collection, and it is painfully addictive. The concept is as basic as a preschool aptitude test, but with the addition of puzzle modes and timed games to add more challenge. The basic idea is to line up three or more of the same jewels to eliminate them, only for more to fall in to fill the space. This provides a constant stream of highly explosive diamonds and emeralds to remove until there are no more available combos and the game ends.
Truthfully, bejeweled is so popular it has moved beyond Popcap, and appears all over the place. There are free to play versions all over the internet, as well as a nifty sidebar gadget for Vista. There are even add-ons that allow continuous play while riding those boring flight paths in World of Warcraft. This is because the game is simple, easy to pick up, and keeps moving to keep its players going. Walking away is the hard part.