You may have heard about Zool, you may even have read reviews of it in other magazines. But you're not stupid enough to believe everything you read, are you? The truth of the matter is, Zool was finished four days before Amiga Format was due to be printed. Now normally, that late in our schedule it's too late to change anything, but we were so impressed with Zool that we had a quick reshuffle of our pages and shoehorned it into this already packed issue. So remember kiddies, this is the latest, greatest and the most up-to-date review of Zool you'll ever read. In fact, it's the first review of the finished game ever to see print.
Expensive PD Demo?
You know as well as I do that £25.99 is a lot of money to pay for a game. You wouldn't buy a record just on the strength of the sleeve (unless it was a Madonna disc maybe), so why buy a game on the strength of the screenshots? So let's play it shall we?
Well, the intro's good. I like this, a funky fresh soundtrack and some ultrafast scrolly visuals, this is as good as a PD demo, and only costs about 20 times as much. Now I'm getting a message, what does it say? 'Prepare Yourself', OK, if you say so, but what for, what do I need? Some string? A ten pence piece in case I need to make a phone call? Ah! A joystick and a comfy chair will see me right. Let's press fire...
This is the game that makes Sonic and Mario look like the sad creations of teams of deluded child psychologists that they are
Like, totally intense dude!
Whoa! The first thing you realise is that it's psychedelically intense, man, and stupendously bright. Now I understand what the 'Prepare Yourself' stuff was all about. First thing, install a pair of shades. That's better. Oakley's in place and I can bear to look at the screen without squinting. We are talking the most outrageously colourful graphics to ever be seen on the screen, and that includes any screen, SNES and Megadrive included.
So! This Zool dude, who is he anyway? It says here that he's a 'Ninja of the Nth Dimension' and who I to argue? He looks like a ninja to me, he's got one of those red scarfs tied over his eyes and everything. And he can do all those mystical ninja tricks, he considers the Tumo Heat, says a few mantras and ngags and the next thing you know he's leaping all over the place kicking and punching and shouting Hai!
And boy is he fast. Oh! You don't know do you, 'cos you haven't seen him yet. Well, let me tell you, he is fast. There's all this talk about Zool being Gremlin's sonic beater. Well he's not quite that fast, but he is very fast. Makes Mario look like he's on Mogodon, that's for sure. He looks good too, his arms and legs are a bit skinny, but I'm sure that just helps him to move quicker. I mean, you don't see many fat ninjas running around do you? They'd be sumos instead.
Zool's got to fight his way across seven worlds of fiendish foes, all of them things that you'd never expect to have an evil side. He begins by fighting sweets, yes sweets, or candy for those of you who've been watching too much American TV. As he runs across a world of chocolate smartie cake and jelly, Zool has to fight off Jelly Lumps and Chocolate Spikes. By ninja spinning at the top of lollipops he can release a shower of edible goodies to be collected, each of which yield 100 points.
There really isn't a lot more to it than that: you run, you jump, you kick your way through six worlds of high-speed mayhem. Sure, there's the occasional tricky bit, but we're not talking true 'put your thinking cap on' puzzles here, just bits of the game that require a less than direct approach to reach your destination.
There are areas of the Tool World that need gates activating, but by and large this is a straight-ahead, seat-of-your-pants blast. And fast is the way to play it. The game design is not so fiendish as to place perils just out of sight so when you take a flying leap into the unknown you land on a sea of spikes or fall down an abyss. The levels are so well put together that you can make the most of the game's extreme speed and smoothness.
The way to get the most from Zool is to put your brain in neutral, turn your reactions up to maximum and go for it. This is a mega-fast, mega-vast mega-blast. From the start of Sweet World to the very end of the game, you can't let your attention slip for a second, the baddies keep coming, the terrain just keeps being a little trickier than you'd hoped, those slopes being a little slippier than you'd imagined and those damned baddies just keep regenerating every time you retrace your steps.
Who needs hedgehogs...
If not for the pause mode it would all be too much for a normal human to take (I mean you need a can of Coke every now and then, and you need to get rid of fluid occasionally too), but this is no territory for normal humans.
Here we are deep in the arcade zone, the land of the player hardened by years of joystick wielding. This is a game that can hold its head up and look the consoles right in the eye. Yes, this is the game that makes Sonic and Mario look like the sad creations of teams of deluded child psychologists that they are. Sonic's got the speed, Mario has the size and the gameplay, Zool's got both. And when you're bored with playing games (and it will take you an age and a half to get bored of Zool) I'd like to see you use a console to digitise some pictures or write a hit record.
Let's face it, if Sonic was being reviewed in Amiga Format it would get ooh, about 91 per cent, sure that's good, but when you compare it to Zool's massive... ah, but that would be telling. You'll have to read on to find out, so don't cheat and go looking at the bottom of the page ahead of time. The only excuse for anyone to buy a console now would be Gremlin developing Zool for the GameGear.
The game is far from faultless though, it would have been nice to see a few more puzzles, it would've been nice to be rewarded for obscure things like only collecting every fifth pick up. In short, it could have more depth. But as soon as you begin to play, any reservations you may have had evaporate in an instant. Let's face it, you just don't have time to play puzzle games when you're fighting caustic cuties at this frenetic piece.
Some people, our ex-Screenplay Editor Trenton Webb for one, criticise this type of game for not being intellectually stimulating enough, but by and large those kind of people who stay at home playing chess rather than going out hang-gliding. (I must apologise right now for implicating Trent in this vicious slur on couch potatoes, because he would be the first to jump off a tall building tied to nothing but an elastic band).
But what I am try to say is, No! This isn't an intellectually stimulating game, it's an exciting game. Possibly, no definitely the most exciting game ever seen on the Amiga, which is itself the most exciting computer ever. Which means, if I've done my sums right, that Zool is the... roll of the drums, most exciting computer game ever. Yes, there I've gone and said it. Any complaints, send them on a postcard to Amiga Power at this address, cause I really don't wanna know. This is the one brothers and sisters, the game that kicks out all the jams, the most unrelenting-computer gaming experience this side of the virtual orgasm.
Zool is nothing new
Hell, I know I should really say more about the game, but what is there to say, you've seen dozens of games like this before. You shoot at things, you punch things, you kick things, and they die. Every so often the things you punch and kick turn into goodies, and you collect the goodies and you get points, and if you finish a level in a fast time then you get points for that too, and after three levels there is a Boss, and he's big and tough and you have to kill him too. And there are power ups, and it isn't always to get from A to B, so you have to take a round-about route, and No! No! It all sounds so mundane doesn't it.
I wish I could tell you that Zool breaks the mould, banishes the tedium, redefines the cutesy platform concept, but it doesn't. It conforms in every way to what you'd expect from a perfect cutesy platform game. And in doing so it has become the perfect platform game. If I were to go on Desert Island Floppies this would have to be right there with the Smashing Pumpkins album and a copy of Breakfast of Champions as one of the things I could not live without. Oh! And a ruddy great solar cell to power my Amiga with, too.
In fact Zool is so conformist that it even goes along with the current trend of having sub games. For those new to this term a sub game is a computer game that simulates piloting an underwater military vessel (No it's not, stop being sill and get on with it - Ed).
A sub game really is another game, subsidiary to the main game, but contained within it. And Zool has two. The first is level seven, or Shoot-em-up World as Gremlin have imaginatively called it. but, rather than being an arcade action game it's a shoot-em-up.
Being level seven you might expect it to become before level eight, but there isn't a level eight. So Gremlin, being bright chaps, thought they should find somewhere else to put it. In the end they hid it, and not just in one place where you might stand a sporting chance of finding it, but all over the place. So you might be tearing along fighting murderous marbles in Toy World when you will suddenly be transported by a chrono-synclastic infundibulum to a horizontally scrolling shoot-em-up. If this happens, do not adjust your set, normal service will resume as soon as you get killed.
Melody Maker and NME
The options screen at the start of Zool lets you select the soundtrack. The musicless sound effects are excellent, and really help you tell what's going on in the game, but the other audio tracks are excellent too, you can choose from rave, rock, green and funk. The rave track is the best for an in-game soundtrack, but the best music of all is the stuff they play over the 'Get Ready' screen. And while this is playing you get a cute little metallic robot voice telling you to... get ready.
These screens also feature a subtle but witty backdrop that scrolls behind the test at an amazing rate. It isn't the intro screens that matter though. Excellent as they are, it's the game they sandwich between them that we are here to pay homage to. If you like things cute and colourful, you'll love this, and if you aren't predisposed to platform games you'll still love it. If you don't you need an analyst for your deep-seated alienation complex.
If you only buy one game this year... you aren't spending enough on computer software.