Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bejeweled 2 / Zuma / Bookworm

PopCap: These are the people who define addiction. Not the kind that ends in sharing time and group hugs. Not even the kind that makes Trekkies show off their obsessive pride by speaking in fluent Klingon. No, PopCap-inspired addiction is a much sneakier sort. One minute, it's a healthy game of Bejeweled. Fifteen rounds and three hours later, it's a half-waking dream state haunted by visions of floating gems. Make the visions stop!

Bejeweled 2, Zuma, and Bookworm are all "casual games," each with a super-simple premise—and even simpler gameplay. In Bejeweled, players clear gems from the screen by swapping neighboring jewels and matching colors. Zuma also uses the matching motif: Marbles roll down a curved path toward a waiting hole, a.k.a. your imminent doom. Hold them at bay by shooting more marbles into the lineup and knocking out three or more same-color sets. And Bookworm is in a world all its own, a paradise for hopeless word dorks. Ever wondered what Scrabble would be like if anyone would actually agree to play with you? This is it. But with fire.

Beyond the game: In titles as straightforward as these, it's the details that count. Zuma clones may be a dime a dozen, but where else do flying Incan frogs store hypnotic marbles in their cavernous bums? Nowhere.

Worth playing for: The chance to play Bejeweled on an exotic tropical island—and then warp through, like, a totally psychedelic wormhole! How romantic.


Frustration sets in when: Things can get way hard, way fast. Let a burning block touch the ground in Bookworm's "Action Game" mode, and you too may earn the rank of "book burner," complete with a representative faux-Nazi nursing his singed fingers.

Final judgment: PopCap offers free hourlong demos of all its games, so why not give them a go? But before handing over that credit-card number, take a moment to consider: You have a life, a family, possibly even friends. Are you willing to give all that up? The flying frog compels you.

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