Four modern classic’s on one disc? PopCap Hits reviewed.

Four of the finest arcade titles for a previously downloadable only audience come to the retail gamers with Mastertronic’s latest release. Will the onetime online only hits survive the leap from Xbox Live to disc? Let’s find out in the GamesMediaPro review of PopCap Hits.    

For all you gamers with no Xbox Live connection the time has arrived when you too can get to experience the unbridled joy that Mastertronic’s four top drawer titles have to offer. Bejeweled 2, Astropop, Feeding Frenzy and Peggle all come your way in the latest PopCap title from the arcade specialist developers.  

The first thing that we should get out of the way when reviewing this canny compendium of collective classics is the £30 price tag, and whilst we can understand the fact that there have been dissenters in the ranks complaining that maybe the game should be as low as £20, the fact of the matter remains that all of these titles were previously only available as downloadable games via Xbox Live, and in that respect the resulting price tag for the Xbox Live subscription, as well as the 2800 Microsoft points that the collection would set you back, would bring the grand total to play these titles far in excess of the retail value of the game, so in that respect we don’t really have any issue with the £30 asking price. That out of the way, lets’ get to what we are here for: The Games!

First up in the list of lovelies is the timeless classic that is the pixellated addiction known as ‘Peggle.’ This is one of those games that will have you coming back time and time again, not just because of the compulsive nature of the first-rate gameplay, but also because of the clean, fresh graphic’s that come complete with sparkling soundtrack and level design that is genuinely second to none.

The main function of the game see’s you shooting at different coloured peg’s to progress through to the next level of the game. For this you specifically need to target the orange peg’s, however there are also bonuses and power up’s hidden inside the vast majority of the multi coloured peg’s that are laid before you. Pink peg’s give your score a boost, whereas the green peg’s will give you some much-needed power boosts depending upon which character you decided to play the game as at the start of the proceedings. Successfully completing a level grants you an impressive display of visually impressive firework’s that are accompanied by Beethoven’s  ‘Ode to Joy’. What’s not to like here, dear readers? Sumptuous graphic’s, sizzling gameplay, fireworks and a rousing rendition of one of Beethoven’s finest?  With the amount of corking modes on offer from Quick Play to Adventure and right back again to the simply stunning Master Duel this is one title that is certainly going to keep you entertained online or off. A triumph of gaming design. Do puzzler’s get any better than this?

Well, actually if you are the lucky enough to find yourself as one of the proud owners of this excellent retail title, then ‘yes’ it most certainly does, as we jump from the gaming classic of ‘Peggle’ right on into the rapture that is Bejeweled 2. 

This ‘match 3’ classic title has been around on a variety of platform’s for some considerable time now, and if you’ve never had the pleasure of trying your hand at this premier game then we can readily suggest that now is the time. Bejeweled 2 offers up some of the finest arcade gaming to be found in this or any other generation. What it lacks in eye-popping visual’s it more than makes up for in some of the most habit-forming and addictive gaming that you will ever experience. The gameplay itself is a bold and beautiful blend of vivid visual’s and gorgeous gaming excellence. The format may have been done a million times over by every developer from A to Z, but with Mastertronic’s vivacious version it is rarely done as well as this, if ever. Blockbusting at its finest you must master the control’s quickly if you are to become a success at the game, and believe us when we tell you that this is a game that you want to be playing.  Matching three symbol’s does advance you forward in your level and will shower your screen in a glittering  extravaganza that also sprinkles points upon your head in a downpour of living colour. But it is when you get a little bolder in your gaming and place four corresponding blocks together that you reap the benefits of your daring and experimentation as boosts and gem’s will rain down upon you like a summer shower. With four real quality modes for you to sample and taste the delights contained therein, Bejeweled 2 really is the gaming jewel in the PopCap Hits crown.

Astropop’s is another kind of ‘match 3’ title in that you must place the coloured block’s accordingly to release bonuses, points and power up’s. The difference here, however, is that you must first select which spaceship you wish to pilot, as instead of some faceless and nameless entity that control’s and oversee’s your gaming screen you get to play as one of four pilot’s who you will use to grasp and grab the differently coloured blocks before placing them in the desired zone to maximise the rewards. What set’s Astropop’s apart from even the other titles on this disc is that with each of the four pilot’s you get differing special abilities, meaning that the already compulsive nature of the gameplay is heightened further by wishing to conquer the games ever-increasing levels of difficulty with each character. Be under no false impressions or illusions here, readers, Astropop’s is no ‘walk in the park, far from it. Indeed the game is anything if not a challenge for even the most experienced of Match 3 players. With the standard setting offering steadily more difficult gaming that will test even the most patient gamer Astropop is not the pushover some would like to think it to be.

Last, but by no means least, is the excellent Feeding Frenzy  in this line up of  cracking arcade titles. Once again the simple to use gameplay and easy to master control system is at the very heart of the Mastertronic title success. In a game that see’s you progressing up the marine life food chain you start out as a mere ‘sprat’ and continue along the games level’s by gobbling up everything that is even slightly smaller than yourself. In this ‘survival of the fittest’ title, that really does take its rules from the law’s of nature, you must constantly feed on all other forms of sea-life, whilst at the same  time avoiding being breakfast, lunch or dinner for anything that is larger than yourself. There are some inspired takes on the bonus system in the way that you are allowed to ‘inhale’ every living thing in front of you like some ‘Halibut-Hoover’, or then hugely protective ‘bubble’ that you cn envelope your fishy in whilst reducing the risk of being some other predators’ fish finger. With two moorish modes on offer to gamers, Feeding Frenzy joins its list of fellow arcade titles with well deserved relish in a game that spoils the player for choice with the amount of top quality gaming contained on one fantastic disc.

Graphics: Whilst the graphic’s may not be at the cutting edge of this game developers repertoire, PopCap Hit’s is still more than capable of keeping the player engrossed in the game  with its excellent visuals. Bright and bold, and undoubtedly clean as a whistle, PopCap Hit’s has managed to mix the perfect amount of colour without making the game screen too ‘busy’ or looking too garish with unnecessary effect’s that are not in keeping with the gameplay.      8

Gameplay: You know a game is going to be just fantastic to play when there is little talk about how great it looks, how well the menu’s are laid out or how pretty the box art is. PopCap Hit’s sell itself with some of the very best gameplay to be found on any arcade title. The beauty of this title is that it takes all of that stunning gameplay and multiply’s it by four as you get a veritable feast of gaming goodness in PopCap Hit’s that not many can lay claim too. Top notch gaming at its very best with easy control’s throughout that will have gamers from five to ninety-five taking part, and enjoying, every minute spent with these titles.  10

RePlay Value: The fact that theses titles are now available to players whilst they are offline, as well as on, makes the enjoyment value go through the roof, as the totally addictive nature of the excellent gaming contained within Mastertronic’s foursome of first-rate fun will have gamers coming back for more time and again. The best compilation of arcade titles on the market.     9

Presentation: Once again Mastertronic have demonstrated that when it comes down to quality gaming done properly there are none to match their arcade game abilities. Every title on PopCap Hit’s will provide hours of endless fun as players constantly attempt to outdo friends and family, and themselves, with the four most compulsive of games we have currently had the pleasure to review.  The graphic’s are pleasing to th ye and have been designed as such so that gamers can withstand the hours of addictive gameplay that they will put in to each of these titles, without fear of ruining their vision with over-the -top visuals that are, in truth, not at all required when you have a game so compelling as any one of the four titles on offer here. When you consider just how much time you will spend playing each of these wonderful titles then the price tag doesn’t seem nearly so steep, now does it. Worth every penny of the retail value with a replay value that far exceed’s the monetary cost.  9


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