I consider myself a seasoned gamer. Since I first loaded Jet Set Willy from cassette onto my ZX Spectrum, blown away by the sophistication of it all, I have been an avid participant in this constantly evolving art form. These days however my reaction times ain’t what they used to be, so I prefer a game with no time limits or ‘twitch’ elements. That rules out much of what’s on offer, but there are still new games around that old fogeys like myself can enjoy.
Chuzzle is a simple ‘match three or more’ type of game. The screen is filled with a grid of furry, round chuzzles of different colours. Using a finger, the player can slide the rows of the grid horizontally or vertically to align three or more chuzzles of the same colour, at which point they pop and are replaced from above, a bit like Tetris. The more chuzzles you pop at the same time, the more points you get. If you pop five or more at the same time, you get a flashing chuzzle which explodes when you pop it, clearing more space than usual. Once enough chuzzles have been popped, it’s on to the next level.
As the player progresses through the levels, Popcap gradually introduce new mechanics to make things more difficult and introduce a more strategic element to the proceedings. Occasionally a gigantic chuzzle will appear (much to the delight of my little daughter), and since it occupies more than one row on the grid you have to move two rows at once, narrowing down your options. Rainbow chuzzles appear, leading to some Rubik’s Cube style move planning if you want to pop them and harvest the extra points they bestow. Some chuzzles become locked with a padlock icon, meaning that the horizontal and vertical rows of the grid they occupy can’t be moved.
There’s plenty to keep you playing. I personally love the music and the chuzzles themselves are really characterful considering they’re basically just coloured balls with eyes. There is no time limit, nor are there penalties for taking your time, and if you’re totally stuck you can use a ‘scramble’ which does exactly what you would expect – jumbling the chuzzles up and potentially offering a bit of breathing room in terms of available moves. You can unlock additional scrambles as your score increases. There are trophies to unlock too when certain milestones and criteria within the game have been reached.
In case that lot isn’t enough for you there are also other modes to play. Speed mode does away with the free and easy attitude to time, penalising you by locking a chuzzle if you take too long to make a move. Needless to say I am useless at this mode since it involves quick thinking. Zen mode is endless as far as I can tell, offering a relaxed way to polish up your chuzzle skills and earn trophies. Finally, there’s Mind Bender mode. The idea here is to use your chuzzles to match a pattern at the top left of the screen. I am useless at this mode too. Whenever I try to play it my brain shuts down but I’m betting this mode is mana from heaven for those of a more logical persuasion.
Chuzzle is a cracking game – simple to grasp, charming and addictive. Popcap excel at this. I don’t have to worry if my daughter is looking over my shoulder when I play (that would be difficult admittedly, since she’s about four and a half feet shorter than I am), and indeed she seems to derive just as much pleasure from this game as I do despite her play style consisting of bashing the screen repeatedly. If twitch games aren’t your thing you might just enjoy Chuzzle too. And as stated in a previous Peggle review, no I don’t work for Popcap.
Update: In the article I said “if you’re totally stuck you can use a ‘scramble’”. This is not quite correct. You only get a scramble when you have no moves left, and it’s automatic unless you have no scrambles left. Thanks Jim for pointing that out!