Reviewed: November 5, 2010
Released: October 28, 2010
App Store Price: $2.99
You have played Aqua Pearls before. It looked a lot different, and probably had a very different theme, but this is a game you recognize. There is no reason to disguise the reference. This is Zuma. Aqua Pearls goes in the opposite direction of Zumaís Egyptian dessert theme with an Underwater Kingdom theme, but otherwise feels the same. Aqua Pearls may be uninspired, but it would be unfair to call it a knock-off for a number of reasons. It may be incredibly familiar, but itís a comfortable familiar, and one that is worth a recommendation.|
The gameplay is simple, and incredibly addicting. You are shooting colored balls at other moving colored balls in order to create matches of three so that the moving balls will all disappear before reaching the finish line. If the balls make it to the end, then it is game over so to speak, and you have to start all over. Shooting the balls requires a simple tap in the direction you are aiming, and it works well. You can also drag your finger to aim, lifting your finger to fire as well. Both control methods work.
There is an adventure mode that pushes you along a series of levels of varying difficulty. There are about 40 levels that are broken up with what could best be described as boss battles. You arenít literally fighting bosses, but these encounters do feature evil creatures protecting collectible pearls of some kind. There is a story around these desirable pearls, but it is totally negligible. The gameplay of these boss levels isnít much different from the normal levels, but they do help to break up the regular gameplay by offering a bit of extra challenge.
Along with the adventure levels, there are a few other modes. There is an endless mode where you fight for a high score. You basically just keep going until you die, get tired of playing or get a phone call that interrupts your game. There are also two puzzle modes that offer new types of gameplay to the familiar ball shooter puzzle game. One forces you to eliminate all the rolling balls with a limited number of moves, while another forces you to only eliminate balls in certain areas in order to free the trapped fish of the ocean. The second mode, referred to as strategy mode, is a standout. It takes the familiar puzzle ball shooter mechanic, and effectively mixes it up by turning it into a more patient strategic shooter. Itís the mode of the game that most separates from itís Zuma influence.
The game looks pretty good, offering some attractive underwater vistas, but there is nothing groundbreaking here. The music feels appropriate for a game that takes place underwater, but it seems to serve no other purpose than just to say, this game should have music, so it does.
Itís a good complaint when $2.99 feels like a high price, especially when the world of $60 Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 games are right around the corner. Rest assured though, that there is a lot of content here. The price could easily cover the cost of the adventure mode, which is pretty long, but then the additional modes do well to extend the value. Ultimately, this is a game you know, and possible one you are tired of, but compared to other ball-shooter-puzzle games available on the touch screen wonder, you canít do much better than Aqua Pearls.