It’s funny how forgotten memories ping back into existence when there is the slightest trigger. Every time I watch Jurassic Park my mind takes me back to those red velvet seats of Macclesfield cinema, where a miniature Joe is tucking into some mint Matchmakers and staring at awe in the T-Rex charging at an injured Ian Malcolm. The same happened when I booted up Zool Redimensioned, I was thrown back into a childhood memory long forgotten where I was with my friend, watching his sister navigate a ninja-alien-ant character through a colourful, candy filled screen, trying to collect all the sweets to proceed to the next level.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Brilliant platformer|
+ Tight controls
+ Bright 90s visuals
|Negatives||– A tad short|
– Incohesive level themes
– Music is flat
|Price (When Reviewed)||£7.99|
|Our Playtime||5 hours|
|Available On||PC, PS4, Xbox One|
Developed by Gremlin (later, Infogrames) Zool started life in 1992, appearing on various consoles ranging from the Amiga to the Mega Drive and SNES. The titular Zool was a ninja from the Nth Dimension (although since the word ‘ninja’ was banned in Europe till the mid-90s he was marketed as an alien), had to explore strange 2D worlds in an effort to return home. The game was a moderate success and spawned a sequel, but due to the popularity of Mario and Sonic, it seemed that Zool was permanently confined to the Nth Dimension. That is until the team at Sumo Digital picked up both the rights and original source code to the game and let their Secret Mode developers have a go at remastering Zool for a new audience.
Seven Worlds make up Zool, each following the standard three stage setup: two platform levels and one boss fight. In order to progress through each stage you have to collect a certain number of whatever was on offer. The original developers of Zool took inspiration from different parts of everyday life, including Tool World where everything is based around things found in a shed, and to progress you had to collect bolts found strewn around the place. Each of the levels are fun to explore, but because each stage is unique, there is no cohesive ‘thing’ to collect. Mario has his coins, Sonic laps up rings, and Zool seems to take whatever is on offer which might not sound like a big issue, the bar for passing a level is pretty low, but it just makes the game feel a little disjointed as there is no rhyme or reason to link one level to the next.
That being said, the look and design of each level remains a high standard despite the game being released over three decades ago. Zool Redimensioned isn’t just your left to right platformer, but one where you had to explore to get your collectibles. The themes such as Music World had me looking for musical discs, while instruments from a jazz band tried to stomp out my little alien buddy. My favourite, which happens to be the opening three stages, is Sweet World. Here, everything is made of sugary treats, chocolates and gumballs make up trees and hills, with the enemies taking more than a passing inspiration from Maynard’s Licorice Allsorts as they try and take down the nimble ninja. The updated graphics ensure that the already colourful game remains as such. Colours are fun and vibrant, and pop out of the screen and make the aforementioned Sweet World utterly desirable. I don’t know if it’s a product of subliminal messaging or the fact the graphics are that good, but I have had a desire to hunt down a lot of candy, which is an achievement in itself as Allsorts are utterly gross.
Just knowing that Zool Redimensioned has been created in part by Sumo Digital’s Academy sent me into an existential crisis. The division is there for upcoming developers to get their teeth into the business of creating and releasing games, meaning that they are generally on the youthful side of the fence. As it turns out Sumo has been doing an excellent job at fostering the talent so us oldies can breathe a sigh of relief that our obscure games of the past are well preserved. Zool features everything that made the game enjoyable back in the 90s, from the bright graphics to the precision controls needed to navigate the ninja throughout each world and while preserving what made the game special, a few modern tweaks have been added via a separate mode. The modern upgrades simply add a double-jump and a few extra health bars to make progression easier. It’s here I spent the least amount of time, but the fact the two modes were separated is a nice touch as it gives players the chance to play through the game as originally intended, and not allowing players to cop out and switch mid-way through.
The only drawbacks to Zool Redimensioned surround issues that were present in the original and that is the longevity of the game and the sound. The music sadly, does not meet the standards of the graphics. The chip-tune soundtrack was always a limitation of the day but unlike Sonic’s iconic opening, Zool has nothing to note. Even now, I’m struggling to think of music from any of the levels, it’s just utterly forgettable. The length of the game is less of an issue, but the main game will only last a few hours thanks to each stage being on the short side. Boss fights and collecting everything will pad out the time but even the harder retro mode won’t pose too much of a challenge. Both of these issues can’t be levied at Sumo Digital, as the team are remastering the original code so it’s not as if anything could have been done without taking creative liberties.
Thanks to the hard work of Sumo Digital’s student division Zool Redimensioned polishes up the original game and introduces a number of additional extras that brings an excellent platformer back from the dead. For some, Zool Redimensioned might seem like a by-the-numbers platformer but that’s part of what makes it special. In an age when zipping left to right to get to the goal as quickly as possible, Zool made players explore their surroundings and collect a certain number of items to complete the level. Granted, despite each world having their own individual themes, they do feel out of place when examined as a whole but that’s a small point on an otherwise tight platformer. For gamers of a certain age, Zool Redimensioned will likely unlock some serious nostalgia about a game that was ahead of its time and wonder why this never quite made it to the echelons of Sonic of Mario.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review and Joe wonders if T ever kept his Sonic toy safe. Tails is still going strong.