Matching colored items - will it ever get old? We used to think so, but Xbox Live Arcade games like Hexic, Astropop and Zuma Deluxe have convinced us otherwise. And even if you already own the other two, Zuma's worth your precious Microsoft Points too.
If you're a Bust-A-Move fan (or if you played the old PlayStation game Ballistic), you'll recognize Zuma 's basic setup. Your pivoting gun (in this case, a frog idol) fires colored stones into an ongoing chain, with the goal of eliminating pieces of the chain by matching colors. Keep the chain from reaching the end of a fixed track, or you lose a life - and eventually, the game.
As with many puzzle games, the production values are strictly past-gen - mostly 2D graphics, a simple (but catchy) Aztec-themed soundtrack - but Zuma delivers where it counts with uber-addictive gameplay. Matching certain stones causes the moving chain to slow down, roll backward or even explode. Besides pairing stones, you also get bonuses for quick level-finishes, shooting stones through gaps in the chain and hitting randomly appearing coins.
Zuma's Adventure mode offers 13 levels of chain-busting fun, each with a different chain configuration. Finish these levels and you unlock extra levels in the game's Gauntlet mode, a marathon challenge where you try to hold back one long, neverending chain.
It's a bit of a bummer that Zuma is single-player-only: I would've loved to go head-to-head with a buddy over Xbox Live. But the game still packs plenty of thrills into a tiny package. Ten bucks for 10-plus hours of stone-cold fun? We hear, oh powerful Zuma, and obey.