This action-puzzle game of online origin was developed by PopCap, the creators of the popular Bejeweled. The Chuzzle playfield is full of cute, colorful, blobs of fur, called "Chuzzles," that come alive through their voices, animations, and googley eyes. The object of the game is to remove Chuzzles from the board, by arranging them so that three or more of the same color are grouped together. Four main modes of play are available: "Classic," "Speed," "Zen," and "Mindbender."
Building on the free online version of Chuzzle (a.k.a "Classic Chuzzle"), Chuzzle Deluxe offers two levels of play for Classic Chuzzle and adds three other variations on the game. Speed Chuzzle pits the player against a timer that is sure to raise blood pressure; Zen Chuzzle does the opposite, lulling the player into a calm state of being with a never ending shuffle of the furry creatures. Finally, there is Mind Bender, which is a lot like those little tray puzzles where you move one line at a time until the picture is correct.
As with most PopCap games, the graphics in Chuzzle are high resolution and rich in detail despite the simple subject matter. The fur on each chuzzle ripples, eyes blink and follow the mouse pointer, and when the chuzzles explode, fur flies across the screen. Explode a super chuzzle and watch the whole board shake. Random chuzzles also flaunt their fashion sense by wearing outrageous sunglasses -- too bad the glasses don't earn the player any extra points. Aside from fashion, the chuzzles also squeak, sneeze, glare, or giggle depending on the player's actions or inaction; if you walk away from the game without pausing it, the chuzzles will actually fall asleep. It's clear the designers put in a lot of effort to give the chuzzles -- little more than balls of fur with eyes -- a lot of personality.
On a technical note, the colors are optimized for 16 bit color and players are warned that the game may not display properly under other settings. One nice feature is the optional setting for colorblind players; in this setting, each color of chuzzle is marked by a different symbol. The game is also optimized for full-screen play but it can be set to open in a window using set window dimensions. I don't recommend the smaller settings, though, as some of the detail which makes this game so enjoyable is lost on the smaller scale.
The background music for Chuzzle is simple and upbeat without becoming completely annoying (if you do find it annoying, you can always toggle the music track off in the Options screen). The chuzzles make little noises throughout gameplay, shouting "Whee!" when you match them, sneezing when you leave the mouse pointer on top of one for too long, and making assorted chirps and whistles when you right-click on them. If I have one complaint it is that the music is a bit too loud and even after adjusting it in-game, I still had to lower my main speaker volume. That may just be me, though. Overall, there's nothing stupendous about the sound here; it's just about average for a puzzle game.
Chuzzle Deluxe comes with four options for gameplay: Classic, Speed, Zen and Mind Bender. Classic and Speed Chuzzle also allow players to choose casual or expert level of play; in the expert level, all point values are doubled but chuzzles are locked more frequently.
The concept of Classic Chuzzle is simple: slide rows and columns of chuzzles to combine groups of three or more chuzzles of a single color and watch them explode with excitement while you earn points and move ahead through the levels. The trick as the game advances: random chuzzles will be locked so that the player cannot move either the row or the column that contains the locked chuzzle. Along with locks, players will encounter fat chuzzles (the size of four regular chuzzles), super chuzzles (which explode), and elusive rainbow chuzzles. If you get stuck, there is a hint option -- but it costs you all the points you earned in the last 10 moves. As you play, you can earn trophies for everything from exploding three or more super chuzzles at once to not making a single bad move in a game. Each player can only earn each trophy once (which is why there is even a trophy for having earned every other trophy!) and you can look at them (or see which ones you're missing) in the trophy room.
Feeling like a challenge? Speed Chuzzle kicks it up a notch with a timer that controls how frequently chuzzles are locked; matching and clearing chuzzles buys you some time, but you have to work fast! On the opposite side of the scale, Zen chuzzle simplifies things; there are no locks, no time constraint, just happy little chuzzles to be matched. As you advance in levels you earn rainbow stripes, hearts and other charms. Since both are variations on Classic Chuzzle, once you get the basics, it's easy enough to adapt; however, I found that my gameplay in Classic Chuzzle showed considerable improvement after a round or two of Speed Chuzzle.
Mind Bender is different. It uses the chuzzles to make ever-more challenging slider puzzles where the player has to match the board to the image provided. It's really easy to move in the wrong direction and get even further from the solution -- not unlike the original Rubick's Cubes -- but if you click on the target image, it will return chuzzles to their original scrambled positions so you can try again.
Chuzzle is one of PopCap's most popular games and it's easy to see why. It's a happy little game full of happy little explosions -- chuzzles love to be destroyed! With it's four variations on the classic game, Chuzzle Deluxe offered me plenty of variety and challenges. Even after a month of very addicted play, I still haven't cleared all the Mind-Bender levels and I still look forward to playing every time I launch the game. If you are looking for good value in a puzzle game that really is suitable for all ages (I recommend the calm Zen Chuzzle for young children), you can't go wrong with this download.
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