ZZed definitely owes a lot to one of PopCap’s many hits, Zuma. The game’s developers even acknowledge this debt with a cute bit of dialogue in the game’s narrative. However, this tiny chunk of comedy isn’t the sole highlight of ZZed. It’s a thoroughly entertaining game, both in its gameplay and its charming presentation.
The main character, Zzed, is just a blue-collar alien trying to make a living. He pays the bills by cleaning up the surfaces of planets for Zopa-Zola, a shady interstellar corporation. He tidies up these locations by shooting colored rocks at other colored rocks, which disappear if three or more of a kind are touching. However, what distinguishes Zzed from Zuma and other Match-3 games is the action aspect that’s been so expertly integrated.
Try sorting your recyclables next time.
Our hero is not out of harm’s way, as the objects littering the game’s levels slowly creep towards his ship. You can earn power-ups that slow or repel them, but your best defense is to act quickly to eliminate or displace them. You won’t only shoot to make sets of similarly-colored objects; sometimes you just need to use the game’s physics to create some breathing room.
You won’t tear out too much hair while playing ZZed, but it’s not a game you’ll breeze through. You’ll need to get used to using the billiards-like strategy of bouncing rocks off of the levels’ boundaries, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the oncoming refuse. This is also where the weakest part of the gameplay becomes apparent.
Another day, another intergalactic space buck.
You only need to use one finger to play, as you can just tap the screen to shoot in the direction of your touch. The only other interaction is sometimes moving your ship, also controlled by a single finger. To move your ship, you touch and drag it in the direction you want it to go. The problem is, if you’re trying to shoot something very close to your vehicle, you’re likely to accidentally move. Unless you’re being very careful, you’ll occasionally find yourself driving right into whatever you were trying to shoot away. It’s frustrating when this happens, but it’s not enough to make the game unpleasant overall.
A game that’s as much fun as ZZed doesn’t need a story, but we’re still glad it’s there. It’s light and witty, and its charm doesn’t stop at the cutscenes. As you begin playing the game, you’ll receive fairly standard tips about how to succeed and maximize your scores. As the game progresses, the advice given between levels becomes much broader. Insight from figures such as Michael Jordan, Mark Twain, and Albert Einstein will encourage you in the later parts of the game.
Unfortunately, the worst part of ZZed is that it’s currently broken, at least on the iPod Touch 4G we used. After clearing what we understand is the final level, the game crashes before the final cutscene is shown. This is really disappointing, as we were enjoying our time with the game and it’s a crushing blow to an otherwise exceptional title. We’ve contacted the developers, who tell us that a fix has already been sent to Apple for review. We’ll let you know when this update is live. Hopefully it’ll be soon, because other than this bug and some control issues, we have a hard time finding flaws in ZZed.