Stop us when you've heard this one before. Poppin' Panda is a mobile puzzler that has you controlling a panda, who sits at the centre of the screen, rotating around and firing coloured marbles at other coloured marbles, which snake in from the sides and…
What? Oh, you stopped us. Good work.
Yes, Poppin' Panda is essentially Zuma. Except with a panda firing the balls, instead of a frog, and a sketchy plot about an Earth Spirit changing the world's vital elements into marbles so said panda can save the world.
We're not sure how long the brainstorming meeting for this one lasted, other than a) it was probably at London Zoo, and b) they had plenty of time to visit the monkey enclosure afterwards.
So, as we said, you control this panda, who can turn in both directions, fire marbles, and swap his current marble for the next in line. You have to make matches of three or more of the same colour to make them disappear, scoring points to fill a meter at the top of the screen.
If the marbles reach your well, you're toast (not literally, sadly – presumably the WWF and PETA would get shirty about pandas going up in flames in a mobile game).
If you've played Zuma, you're probably wondering if Poppin' Panda has filched the idea of power-ups, too. It most certainly has.
Make marbles with certain elements disappear, and you can get a range of elements, including one that stops the marbles in their tracks, another that gives you an aiming line, another that lets you shoot individual marbles, and so on.
There are two game modes. Adventure has you playing through 30 levels split between three different difficulty levels – morning, twilight, and evening – which have four, five and six different marble colours respectively.
Meanwhile, Survival mode simply pits you against a never-ending stream of marbles, until your skill or your mobile battery gives out.
Actually, we have been a bit harsh on the game's originality. Sure, it's heavily indebted to Zuma, but the developer has clearly tried to add in some new features. For example, you can switch Paw-Paw (the panda) between different locations on the screen to get a better aim.
Additionally, some levels let you bounce marbles off walls to make your shot, which adds extra strategy to the gameplay, while others have chests you can break open with balls, or chutes that send the marbles to hard-to-reach places.
In all cases, your score is boosted, which is the key to completing levels on the highest rating.
See, Poppin' Panda's basic concept might be exceptionally unoriginal, but Glu has made a big effort to make the actual gameplay a step on from Zuma. Maybe it didn't visit those monkeys after all.
In fact, Poppin' Panda might make the ideal follow-on game if you've played through Zuma and have been hanging on for a sequel. That said, the way the various features are introduced as you play through the Morning levels makes it accessible to puzzle newbies, however.
One final criticism: the sound is negligible. You get nothing while playing, and then a tiny siren fanfare when you complete a level. We're not sure what's going on there.
Conversely, we do like the little Panda Wisdom feature, with different panda facts unlocked as you progress through Adventure mode.
Overall, then, Poppin' Panda is a fine game that has original features and addictive gameplay. The concept is cheeky, sure, but the execution is top-notch.