PopCap Hits offers four of the developer’s, PopCap’s, biggest games, all on one disc, which were previously only available via download over Xbox Live. For those without access to XBLA it offers them an excellent chance to experience some of the most addictive puzzles games in this console generation, but it’s likely the majority already own one or two from the collection, and so the asking price for the set struggles to justify the buy. Also the collection doesn’t represent the very best from the developers, with titles like Zuma and Plants Vs. Zombies not making the cut.
On offer are the titles Astropop, Feeding Frenzy, Bejewelled 2 and Peggle.
Astropop – released way back in 2005 – tasks you with rearranging coloured blocks into columns of three or more to remove them. The removal of more than three blocks, as well as the manipulation of multipliers and power-ups results in larger scores and quicker block destruction to avoid them encroaching on you spaceship. A weak narrative guides you through the intricacies but it plays predominantly on a similar simplistic design and addictive charm to Tetris. It is then a pleasant experience but pales in comparison to the contemporary puzzle games.
Feeding Frenzy is the weakest from the collection. You must eat fish that are smaller than yours in order to grow larger and eat other fish, all towards to aim of scoring enough points to complete each level. You avoid prey and juggle the risk/reward factors of fetching collectables and nibbling shark tails to increase your score further but the experience fails to evolve and draw you in beyond the first couple of hours you initially invest.
The absolute stars of the collection are Bejewelled 2 and Peggle. Bejewelled 2 has you swap gems one for one to match three of more in rows – horizontally or vertically – to score points. Matching certain numbers of gems results in special ones, primed to explode and rack up the points. Bejewelled 2 is hugely addictive. As with Astropop its setup and design is simplistic and charming but the high score beating compulsion eclipses any competition. That and the many game modes such as timed challenges, limited number of moves puzzles, infinite mode and more, can keep you entertained and busy for hours on end. Bejewelled 2 does, however, suffer to match the quality of more recent versions, Bejewelled 3 and Bejewelled Blitz Live, which both improve on the experience.
Peggle is the pinnacle of simple puzzle game time-sinks. You must launch a number of balls into a pattern of orange and blue pegs, with the odd power-up placed amongst them, and simple watch as the balls bounce around and destroys the lot. The initial ball launch is your only interaction and although different levels under the umbrella of several Peggle Masters provides different outcomes for the powers-ups, such as exploding pegs, multi-ball and ricochet trajectories, the experience is no more complicated than – aim and launch a ball. There’s something about the simple pleasure of clearing each of the many, many levels that’s addictive and fulfilling. The bright colours and cute animal Peggle Masters provide a visually mesmerising package which paired with the addictive passive play style, completely draws you in. It’s quite simply one of the most engrossing puzzle games yet to be released and is an absolute joy to play.
This collection of addictive and fun puzzle games is a great introduction to the casual gaming phenomenon. And whilst the more recent puzzle games certainly have an edge in quality – other than Peggle that is, which is simple wonderful and unmatched – for those without Xbox Live this is a collection well worth experiencing. For those who already have access to download these titles though, Bejewelled and Peggle are the only ones worth your time and MS points, and it very much comes down to whether you already own either of them.
MLG Rating: 7/10
Platform: Xbox 360 Release Date: 18/02/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Popcap Hits for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.