Right now, I should be writing about my terrible addiction to Zuma Blitz. Realistically, an article like this should take me no time at all. But it's taken me four long hours to confess to you the depth of my obsession. Why? Because every time I write a sentence, I'm drawn back to my web browser and before I know it, I've clicked 'Play Again'. 'Research', I mumble, over the sweet sound of plinking. Research into a basic colour-matching game that I've already sunk 30 hours into.
I started playing Zuma Blitz a week ago, when I overheard Rich McCormick bleating on about how he couldn't stop playing it. When I first loaded Zuma up, I scoffed. A weekly tournament? The same map? A store to buy powerup-fuelling Mojo and heart refills? This is rubbish! I've already got the full version of Zuma's Revenge. Outrage!
And then I noticed the leaderboard, adorned with the profile pictures of my Facebook friends. Which happens to be underneath your level up progress bar.
Three hours later, I'm 73% towards level 11, and am gracing second place on the board. Take THAT McCormick! Tremble at the might of my chain bonus skills!
Similar to Bejewelled, Zuma Blitz is PopCap's second foray into Facebook games. Currently in it's Beta stage, rounds are limited to one minute (although hitting Chrono Balls will extend your time), and the leaderboard is reset every Tuesday. Furthermore, you have a life bar that empties with each round, taking 8 minutes to recharge each heart (unless you buy refills from the store, using real monies).
Suffice to say, PopCap's mastery of the reward system will keep you hooked. Yes, it might only be one map, but I can't stop grinning with satisfaction as I watch my XP bar fill to bursting. What's that, Zuma? I've unlocked another powerup? And after the next level, I can win another heart? Sweet.
Finally, after spending all my lives, I'm about to sign out – but a window pops up saying that, just this one time, they're refilling my hearts. Twenty minutes later, I'm given a free potion that doubles my XP for 24 hours. Double XP? GAME ON.
But the real addiction comes from topping the leaderboard and rubbing your victory in the faces of your friends. Currently, my biggest foe is PSM3's deputy editor, Andy Hartup. We've sparred many times, scrapping for pride of place at the top of that scoreboard. And then – after sitting pretty at 421, 259 points, I receive a message from Herr Hartup. One that simply goes 'VICTORY'. I stare in horror to find he's smashed me to bits: 527,530 points. I played for 2 consecutive hours, pleading with the Zuma gods for more bonus fruit, more Chrono balls, more Bombs. But just when I think it's time to give my arthritic fingers a break, my multiplier stars align and I burn through the round, racking up speed bonuses, Gap shots, and the icing on the cake: a Last Hurrah power-up detonates the entire board. When the digital dust clears, I look at the scores. Kim Richards: 701,400. I. Am. LEGEND.
In all seriousness, I've not gone completely mad. I've not spent any actual money on extra Mojo, idols or heart refills. And I haven't forgotten to feed my dog; mostly because I don't have a dog. But who knows what'll happen when the full game launches? Given that I've just noticed that you can unlock a Dragon Totem at level 78, I imagine an intervention will have to be staged, and my debit card will be cut into tiny pieces. But for now, make sure you check Blitz out . If only so I have more competitors to spar against in the battle of the leaderboard. Plink!