Review: Astraware Chuzzle

Originally written for Solsie.com on April 26, 2007. *click*) 

BannerIntroduction

Astraware delivers many good games, original or ported from games for other platforms. Famous is of course Bejeweled, but they’ve got a pretty big line-up of games in all different genres. Some are newer than others, and some have more replay value than others, but no doubt that there’s a game you like in their collection.

One of their games is called Chuzzle. It’s not the newest release, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you don’t know it already!

Continue reading for an in-depth review describing gameplay and more, accompanied by corresponding screenshots!

Chuzzle trialInstallation

Installation is pretty straight forward. From the link above, just choose your platform (the review is based on the Windows Mobile Pocket PC version, reviewed on a HTC Wizard) and click “Download it”. Open the .exe installer when your device is linked to your PC through ActiveSync, and follow the simple installation steps. You will need to choose your OS manually (WM 2002, WM 2003 or WM 5). Just click on through the normal installation routine and Chuzzle will be installed on your device. I installed it on Storage Card which works fine, but some necessary files and savegames are still stored on your internal storage. So if you plan on a hard reset, backup your Astraware game progress!

The trial of Chuzzle is limited to only two modes. Classic Chuzzle and Speed Chuzzle are available, but Mind Bender (which is Puzzle mode) and Zen Chuzzle (Endless mode) are only available after unlocking the trial. You will also see this message everytime you start a new game:

Main screen

From the Main screen you can change your Player name, access all four game modes which will be discussed below, access the Scores, and the Menu. All will be dealt with below.

Main screen 

Gameplay

If you never played a version of Chuzzle before, I recommend you to play the free web-game of Chuzzle, on the PopCap website. You can access it on the bottom of *this page* . The PPC game also has a built-in “How to play” screen when you start a new game.

How to Play 

Basically it’s all about making groups of three or more Chuzzles, which will disappear when they are grouped. (No, it’s not Bejeweled! Keep on reading!) As can be seen in the preview above, you need to drag an entire row or column in order to group Chuzzles. You do this with your stylus, but you can also navigate across the screen with the D-Pad on your device. As can be seen, when the left column is dragged down, you can group 4 white Chuzzles. Then they will disappear, and the Chuzzles above it will fall down, making room for new Chuzzles coming in at the top. The Chuzzles that move off the screen at the bottom, will re-appear at the top so you have a lot of flexibility! Note that this “How to play” screen is only 4×4, the game screens are actually 6×6!

When you pogress in the game, you will see more than just standard Chuzzles.
Big Chuzzles are the size of four normal Chuzzles, and they cannot leave one side to enter at the other again, so while it makes it easier to align with other Chuzzles, it does limit the movement of the involved rows and columns.

Super Chuzzles are glowing, they appear when you make a group of five or more Chuzzles and have more exploding power than normal Chuzzles.

Locked Chuzzles (not on the screenshot) have a lock on them, so that the Chuzzle is locked on it’s place. This means you cannot move that row and column, so the only solution is to slide other Chuzzles of the same color next to it, in order to make the locked Chuzzle pop!
Finally there are Rainbow Chuzzles, which are rare Chuzzles that can only be matched with each other, so make sure you arrange them close to each other.

Also visible on the screenshot below if how to create a Combo: both the blue group on the left and the white group on the right will pop when I let go my stylus at this position.

Combo

On the bottom left you see the level you’re in. On the center left, you see a vase which contains the popped Chuzzles. It gets filled as you progress in the level. Through the Menu here you can quickly access the Main Screen, Settings, Mute the sound, or Exit Chuzzle.

At the cost of some points you can ‘purchase’ a Hint if you get stuck, and when there are no more moves you have two “Scrambles” available which will scramble all Chuzzles in the play field so you have all new combinations (hopefully!). Tapping the “X” in the top right quickly closes Chuzzle.

What I am missing here is a battery indicater, which would be really useful to see if the game isn’t draining too much from your battery. A clock would be nice too, but in my opinion a battery meter is more important.

Modes

Five modes are available in the unlocked game, while only the first two modes are available in the trial.\

In Classic mode, you will need to make groups of Chuzzles untill the vase on the left is filled. When that happens, you progress to the next level. Game ends when you can no longer make any combinations (groups), and you have no scrambles left.

Speed Chuzzle works the same, but adds an element. At the bottom you will have a timer that keeps filling. When it reaches the end of the bar, one of the Chuzzles becomes locked! So the added element here is that you need to quickly make groups of Chuzzles because that will reduce how far the Timer is filled.

Mind Bender is a Puzzle variation. The goal is not to make groups like in the first two modes, but now you have to re-arrange the Chuzzles in order to match the pattern that is displayed as an example.

Then there is Zen Chuzzle which never ends. No Time pressure, and no chance of running out of possible moves. Just enjoy Chuzzle and see how far you can come!

Finally, there is Bechuzzled mode, which is a secret mode that is unlockable by first achieving certain goals. To be honest I haven’t unlocked this mode yet, but if I would have, I wouldn’t spoil what it is. If you need to know what the requirements are to unlock Bechuzzled mode, check the Chuzzle Help file on your PPC. (Or don’t, to keep it exciting!) 

Puzzle

Menu (options)

Options Colorblind

There are several options available to fit gameplay to your needs. You can set the volume of the Sound effects and Music, or mute the sound in general. In “Game” options you can set simple effects, and also have icons in your Chuzzles. This is useful for color-blind people, they will still be able to play Chuzzle using the icons that can be enabled here! “Keys” lets you set the repeat speed for the D-Pad (how fast the selecter goes when you keep a direction D-Pad key pressed). Credits, About, Support and Register will speak for themselves, as well as Exit and OK which respectively leave the game or just return to the Main screen.

Scores/trophies 

With four default modes and another unlockable mode, Chuzzle already supplies you with enough to keep you busy for a while. However, there is more! If you tap on “Scores”, you can access your Trophy cabinet which opens a whole new perspective of the game.  But before I get to that, I need to say that you can Export your scores to post them online. Back to the Trophy cabinet!

In total there are 26 trophies to earn, each can be obtained by reaching a certain goal. For example, one of the goals is to create one large group of all Chuzzles of one color, red for example, and make them pop as one giant group. Another trophy can be earned by clearing two Speed levels without letting the Time meter move into the critical zone. As you can see, trophies give the game a entire new element because when you are tired of the default variations, you can try to earn the trophies that you don’t have already. If you have the 25 basic trophies you will recieve the 26th trophy for “Obtaining every other trophy” and by that time I’m also 100% sure that you have unlocked Bechuzzled mode along the way!

trophy 

Save Games 

For those of you who still don’t know yet, I ride the train to work. There is nothing worse than reaching your destination, only to find you are in the middle of a level with no way to save your progress. 

Oh wait, those are Doug Goldring’s lines! ;-)
But still, it’s important if a game can easily be saved. Chuzzle does a really good job at this. When you return to the Main screen you will see a message saying that your game will be saved, so you can easily switch between different game modes without losing progress. And even when you press the X in the corner while you’re actively playing a game, you can resume that game when you start Chuzzle again!

Sounds and graphics

I think that game music is overrated. I always mute the sound during gameplay, not to disturb people around me. However, for the people who like to have sound during a game, I’m glad to say that Chuzzle doesn’t have the kind of music that’s really annoying, so you can just enjoy the music and sound effects if you care about those. )
The graphics are nice. The Chuzzles look just sligthly pale to me, but maybe that is because today we are all used to the glossy, glassy look of Windows Vista etc. However, if you don’t like the colors, the animations of the Chuzzles, and especially their eyes, more than make up for it. They blink occasionaly, they can fall asleep, and when you pop a group of Chuzzles, the eyes fly to the vase, only to come flying out again when you finish the level! Also the animations for sliding rows and columns don’t leave anything to wish for, they flow really naturally and when you let go of the Chuzzles, they quickly pop back in their original place. 

Conclusion

At first when I looked at Chuzzle, I thought it was a weak Bejeweled variation, considering that it was about aligning three thingies in order to make them pop.

Also, one can argue about the graphics, but you can also just decide to accept them as “something different” which can actually be quite nice. But as said – no way that the graphics can be a Con when you take the detailed animations in mind, which are certainly a bigger Pro.

And when it comes to gameplay, I have to admit that I completely misjudged this game at first. Comparing this game to Bejeweled the way to align Chuzzles is totally original, and you also you don’t need to group Chuzzles in a straight line but they can be all kinds of shapes (as long as three or more are connected). And with 5 game modes to master and 26 trophies to earn, there is an incredible amount of goals to reach without losing interest in the game. I’m even willing to say that with the Trophy room, this game has an element that makes me doubt if Bejeweled 2 is still to be my favourite Astraware game, or if Chuzzle will take it’s place.

I did try this game before starting to review it, but I found it to be so nice that I just needed to share this with you all. D  

Final info 

Chuzzle is currently at version 1.11 and can be found on this product page.
It runs on Palm, Pocket PC and Smartphone. When it comes to Pocket PC (which I tested it on), it supports square 240×240 screens as well as native QVGA and VGA screens. It can also run in Landscape mode but the graphics will scale down so it doesn’t look too nice. The supoprted operating systems are WM 2002, WM 2003 and WM 5.

This month it is discounted for $ 14.95 at the Astraware website, where you can also sign up for Club Astraware and save points to get discounts on future purchases.
But we also greatly encourage you to support the site where you found this review, SolSie.com, by purchasing at our store here.

Now click one of those links, and try out Chuzzle on your device, or try the web game first!

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