Zuma Deluxe - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

zumadeluxe

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.>

The lesser loved of Popcap’s moreish games, lacking the bombast of Peggle, character of Plants vs. Zombies or the pure relaxation of Bejeweled. Still, I love Zuma, a game about a frog spitting balls at a big line of balls. (more…)

Insaniquarium Deluxe

Underwater levels in platformers, token diving sections in open-world games—they're usually not great. Swimming controls usually fill us with dread because they don't get the same care or finesse as everything that surrounds them. If we're going to get wet, it's better when games dedicate themselves entirely to representing the experience of being underwater. That's what these games do. 

They're not first-person shooters set at the bottom of the sea or games about fish who are also secret agents. The best underwater games draw inspiration from the life cycles of marine creatures, from what it's like to move through water, from all the dangers and wonders of the ocean. And fish tanks.

Flow

The bit in Spore where you're a single-celled creature working up the food chain was essentially an interactive screensaver, but still one of its best parts. Flow is basically that on its own. You're a microscopic wormy creature gobbling up plankton-like blobs: eat a blue one and travel to an ocean plane one shade lighter, eat a red one and travel to a deeper blue. Creatures one level over are always visible and as you shift, the outline of a ray three times your size might suddenly stop being a blur and become an orange threat ready to eat you.

Then Flow stops being a peaceful interactive screensaver, abruptly becoming a game about the circle of life.

 Insaniquarium

Drop a pellet and one of your guppies either eats it and grows, or doesn't and turns belly-up. At the basic level Insaniquarium is just about owning fish: decorative wet idiots who can't be trusted not to starve. Then you get a snail who helps you collect the coins your fish drop, and a swordfish who helps you fight off alien invaders who teleport inside your tank and will eat your fish unless you laser that alien to death. Insaniquarium takes the inane pleasantness of owning a fish tank and video gamifies the hell out of it.

Silent Hunter 3

As far as submarine simulators go, Silent Hunter 3, especially with mods, is as in-depth as they get. This is the game where people go for the full U-boat fantasy, playing without time compression so missions take literal days and they have to alter their sleeping patterns around it. If you yearn to fiddle with dials that let you adjust speeds down to the individual knot, then Silent Hunter 3 is for you.

Grab some graphics mods to spruce up the 2005-era looks and dive into the simmiest sub sim that's ever simmed.

Sub Commander

If Silent Hunter III is for pretending you're in Das Boot, Sub Commander is The Hunt For Red October. But where the Silent Hunter series are all studio projects, Sub Commander is the creation of one indie designer and closer to FTL. Your nuclear sub will catch fire at some point, spring leaks, suddenly become radioactive. As much as any patrol or encounter, your mission is to keep the sub running, equipping crew and assigning them to emergency repairs and hoping they don't asphyxiate because you'll need them for the next inevitable emergency. May they all see Montana, one day.

Song of the Deep

In Song of the Deep the ocean is a kids' book where hermit crabs have shops in their shells, a baby leviathan wants to be friends, and you pilot a homemade yellow submarine. It's not just for children, though. It's also a 2D metroidvania in the vein of Aquaria—undersea passages are blocked by water currents, or boulders, or a chubby pufferfish, and there are upgrades to defeat each obstacle. This is the sea from fairytales, everything better down where it's wetter, best played by parent and child together to enjoy the pretty backdrops and help each other past the harder puzzles and bosses.

Subnautica

Subnautica is about taming the ocean—an alien ocean admittedly—and learning how it can help you. You need synthetic rubber to make a pair of fins, so you find the vines whose seed clusters you need to craft rubber; you need more water so you grab a bladderfish as it swims past. Later Subnautica goes beyond basic stuff and you start constructing habitats, a network of breathing tubes, your own computers. You tame the sea and make a home that's also a farm and an aquarium, an octopus's garden of your own.

Abzu

There will be at least one moment in Abzu where your heart floats right out your chest and into your mouth. Maybe it'll be when you race alongside orcas, or a whale passes so close it eclipses everything. Abzu is about diving, and half of diving is looking at the life aquatic and going “woah”. The other half is movement, and Abzu does that well too. Your sleek diver never needs to breathe, you're free to tumble, turn, and follow interesting fish or race along with a current. Each undersea area is scattered with secrets, a simple puzzle to open the next area, and a hint of story delivered without words. Most importantly each environment, whether coral reef or deep trench, has an abundance of living things to swim with while the orchestral soundtrack does its thing and pushes your heart straight up.

The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human

In the opening minutes of The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human, you pilot a small submarine through the oceans beneath a frozen post-human world, and eviscerate a giant sea worm by swimming into its maw and out the ass. From there, Aquatic Adventure stacks up one quiet set piece after another on a tour through a thriving underwater ecosystem grown over the ruins of civilization. And as the last person alive, your only goal is simply to live, which isn’t always easy with massive, mutated sea creatures on your tail. As you explore, you’ll uncover the story of what led to the cataclysmic weather events that killed everyone but you, and find ship upgrades to become more efficient at murdering innocent marine life on your quest to outlive them, you monster. Accompanied by a catchy, somber soundtrack, The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human is a tragic twist on the action exploration formula, placing empowerment and progress behind reckless fish murder and ecological destruction. 

Shacknews - Robert Workman
EA has updated with another free offering on Origin. This time it's the first-person shooter Battlefield 3 on-tap for a limited time.
PC Gamer
930.0x524.0


Today is the day you get Battlefield 3! Why, you ask? Because today is the day you can pick it up at absolutely zero cost that is to say, free as the second game in Origin's "On the House" program.

Electronic Arts unveiled "On the House" in March with a Dead Space giveaway and implied that there might be an element of randomness to the thing, saying that OTH freebies "can appear and disappear at any time." Today's announcement of Battlefield 3 as the next OTH giveaway, on the other hand, suggests it something more regular, coming as it does almost exactly one month after Dead Space, but does it matter? I say, no. I say that free is free, and I'll take it wherever and whenever I can.

And no worries if you already have Battlefield 3, because there's a Plan B: Plants vs. Zombies, which has also been marked down to zero. That is perhaps somewhat less compelling as deals go since it's only five bucks at regular price and just about everyone on the planet already owns it anyway, but again, free is free and to be perfectly honest, if you haven't played either of them and for some odd reason can only get one, I'd actually recommend Plants vs. Zombies. It really is a brilliant game.

But the smart thing to do is to grab them both, which you may do here for BF3 and here for PvZ, until June 3. For all the details, point yourself at Origin.
Shacknews - Andrew Yoon
Last month, EA gave away free copies of Battlefield 1942 on Origin. Today, they've made the original Plants vs Zombies free. Like before, there's no catch. Simply add the game to your cart and checkout, and it'll be added to your digital library forever.
Shacknews - Andrew Yoon
The Plants vs Zombies merchandising train continues onward. After a failed attempt at making a board game, PopCap has done the next best thing: give the license to someone else to play with. RISK: Plants vs Zombies is a "completely customized" take on the classic board game. Featuring a double-sided game board, the game features three ways to play: Tower Defense, Mission Objective, and Total Domination.
PC Gamer
Not a screenshot of Peggle 2—but close. It's Peggle.
Not a screenshot of Peggle 2—but close. It's Peggle.

EA really dropped the ball at its E3 press conference earlier today—it announced Peggle 2, that is. The sequel to PopCap's pachinko-like hit is coming on later this year to , and those are the hard facts. Alright, we don't even have a screenshot, but we do have extreme fever dreams of what we hope Peggle 2 is all about.

We expect, at the very least, an all-new cast of characters with new special abilities and 60-some new levels. That's a given. I'd also love to see more pinball-inspired elements in the levels—there are already a few in the more advanced Peggle: Nights stages. Other bouncing ball related game modes would be welcome too, perhaps with more physics elements. Battlefield 4 isn't the only game that can have destructible terrain. And if not all that, an official level editor would be ace.

Going further, a deeper adventure mode, perhaps with RPG like progression, skills that level up, usable items, and...am I ruining Peggle right now? Maybe a little. Simplicity is part of what makes it great, but as long as the standard just-hit-pegs-with-balls game is there, I don't see why it couldn't safely test a grander scale. I'd be cool with a world map.

There's also the possibility of multiplayer—it doesn't mesh with my "I'm going to play Peggle now so please go away, everyone in the world, this is 'me' time and don't care what you think" attitude toward the game, but a co-op mode could work. One player aims the ball, while the other controls a secondary function like pinball paddles? Either that, or head-to-head competition, but that seems even more in conflict with the spirit of Peggle.

In the end, all I really want is the rush of power sliding the ball down a slope of pegs and into the 100,000 point bonus slot—a joy I scoffed at before finally trying it for myself. Peggle already offers that, but I trust PopCap can find a way to keep it exciting. Let us know in the comments how you'd expand on the Peggle formula, and for the latest from E3, check out our complete coverage.
Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Updated with details from PopCap Games.

Plants vs Zombies 2 is not, as feared, a first-person shooter. But that doesn't mean the oft-rumored multiplayer take on PopCap's popular strategy game isn't real.

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare can be seen plastered all over Los Angeles Convention Center's South Hall, where many of this year's E3 festivities will take place. This name, if you recall, was spotted long ago when EA registered domain names for it.

Rumblings of a PvZ multiplayer shooter were first heard when internet super sleuth Superannation discovered job listings from EA Canada looking for multiplayer designers with console experience. Undoubtedly, EA will officially announce the game at their press conference tomorrow.

Update: A cached version of PopCap's official website (discovered by Superannuation) gives a few more details on the "PC and console game" which is apparently powered by Battlefield's Frostbite engine.:

Plants vs. Zombies is digging into the trenches with an explosive new action experience. Blast zombies, plants and new characters across a mine-blowing PvZ world. Take on Co-op and Multiplayer action with your friends and sow the seeds of victory!

Kotaku says we can expect the game to be "in the vein of Team Fortress 2."

Shacknews - John Keefer

Plants vs. Zombies 2 is coming to iOS on July 18, with Crazy Dave returning with a new mixture of plants and levels to keep the dreaded zombies at bay. Of course, this time, it appears that time travel may be involved.

"It’s about time!" Allen Murray, senior producer for Plants vs. Zombies 2, said in a release. "We're confident that players will see the love and attention we've put into this game. We've created wild new ways to experience the plants and zombies you know and love as well as packing the game with tons of completely new content, and we're still hard at work coming up with even more cool stuff that will keep Plants vs. Zombies 2 fresh and evolving in the months and years following launch."

The release mentions past and future times with the new levels for the free-to-play "live service," and also reveals new power up that will "supercharge" plants. Check out the new trailer for a hint at things to come for the iPhone and iPad.

PC Gamer
Plants vs Zombies 2


"Hell, it's about time," I imagine a spacesuited sunflower grunting, a cigar dangling between its happy-mouthed lips. Is that the image Plants vs Zombies 2 intended to invoke with its new tagline? Will zergling-zombies make a surprise appearance in the sequel? It's hard to say with this new teaser trailer, but if there's one thing it can teach us, it's that despite the far-ranging diversity of PvZ's audience, all of these hilarious stereotypes are united in their desire for more garden-themed tower defensing—and that they'll finally have a reason to stop complaining come July.

Social misfits with webcams, hipster dudes in a creative start-up, angry granddads, PC Gamer writers typing from their living room couch—oh yeah, everyone wants a piece of that pea-hurling action. This asparagus enthusiast is hoping that the "Aspearagus" makes it into PvZ2—what sort of veggies are you hoping to see?

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