This console generation has seen the downloadable space flourish, with Xbox Live Arcade being one such place for indie developers to make smaller titles, for much less of a premium; titles such as Peggle, Bejeweled 2, AstroPop and Feeding Frenzy. But not everyone has access to the internet, and if of course you don't, then you could potentially have missed out on these titles had PopCap Games not released PopCap Hits!, a compilation which includes the four aforementioned titles.
With there being four titles on the disc, it's probably best to start off with the first one and work through them in alphabetical order. So that brings us straight to AstroPop, one of the first games to be released on Xbox Live Arcade. Because of this, it's actually rather basic in premise compared to the kind of games we're used to seeing now. The goal is to simply get rid of the coloured blocks on the screen by matching them up with like-coloured blocks.
To do this, you have to move blocks from stack to stack, which at the beginning is rather simple. Things start to get a bit more tricky as the game progresses through, but it's not the most challenging of games at the best of times. It's just one of those games that's quite relaxing to play, and doesn't really require much thought while doing so.
Next up is Bejeweled 2, the game based off of the Bejeweled concept which has adorned everything from flash portals to even Microsoft's Live Messenger. In this game, you have a grid full of jewels and they must be matched in a straight line (either horizontally or vertically) in sets of three or more to remove them. To do this, you can swap positions with other jewels, but you can only swap one at a time, and it can only be swapped with something adjacent to it.
The catch, is that there are only a finite amount of moves and if you can't make any more, it's game over. In order to prolong the experience, you need to choose wisely which jewels to move and which combos to make. Of course, the way the grid refills is entirely down to luck, but there's a degree of skill that goes into making sure that the random factor doesn't end the game for you.
Next up is Feeding Frenzy, a game based around the concept of eating fish. You play as a very small fish, and you grow larger by eating smaller fish than yourself. The idea is that at the start, there are plenty of fish that are larger than you, and if you try to eat them, you'll be eaten yourself. It's just a very simplistic game, and it will get old after a short amount of time as there's very little to actually alter the gameplay. There isn't really much more that can be said about it. It's the type of game that was made a long time ago and having it updated hasn't really changed anything to make it more appealing.
The final game in the collection is Peggle, which we reviewed as a stand-alone product at the start of 2010. It's a fantastic game, but as with the others, it has a simple premise. The object is to try and bounce a ball from the top of the screen, and have it remove specific pegs which are placed around the gameplay arena. There are plenty of other pegs in the way though, and of course, physics can either be your friend or your enemy.
What sets Peggle apart from the other games on this disc though, and indeed, many other games of a similar ilk, is that it actually expands upon this simple premise. Lots of different scenarios are created, it's possible to win free balls by performing different feats, and each stage has a unique power which helps to bring it to life.
Will this collection keep you occupied for very long though? Peggle might, but the other games probably won't. Feeding Frenzy, especially, is a game that might only hold your attention for five minutes, while AstroPop isn't going to be much different. Bejeweled 2 is slightly different, but it's available in so many other places that it's not really worth purchasing this to simply play it.
It's nice that PopCap has produced a collection of some of their classics so that people without the internet have the opportunity to try them out. The problem is, that only one of the games is really a shining example of what the downloadable space is all about, and that's Peggle. AstroPop, Feeding Frenzy and to some degree, Bejewled 2, just aren't in the same league.