You know what I hate? When I’m walking down the street and a giant tomato falls from the sky and kills me. Wait, that only happens in Zool.
With its pretty graphics and charming music, Zool spreads its thighs and beckons us. “Take me now, subcreature.” But as soon as we fall for the bait, it grotesquely warps itself into a scene from Teeth, and it’s bye-bye to your mojo. I mean it. Gnashed off at the pelvis, completely.
Gremlin Interactive’s Zool is a game where your life can be drained in almost an instant. I appreciate that there are plenty of games from this era that are near impossible—Chakan: The Forever Man specifically comes to mind—but at least Chakan looks like he’ll punish you. It’s like they pulled the short-straw when picking Zool’s design.
The game is punishing in every sense of the word, and beating Zool without “save states” is nearly impossible. Completing Zool on the Genesis itself is a feat that I cannot imagine is possible for anyone. If you want to prove me wrong, please do.
There’s no denying it: Zool: Ninja of the “Nth” Dimension is harder than a morning glory. Metapod taught Zool how to harden, and it bloody hardened.
The beginning of this game shows our hero Zool crashing onto a planet that solely exists to advertise chupa-chups lollies. Everything that’s either alive or candy wants him dead, and there isn’t much of an explanation as to why. The boss of the level is what looks like a bumble bee with two green rings attached to it. It then gets weirder, as “World 2” (so we’re playing a game with worlds now?) opens up to be based around consumer electronics.
Well blow me down, Olive! This game contains absolutely no continuity! How can we go from fighting a bee in Candyland to battling Electric Guitar, or even an Evil Banana that bleeds?
1993. Gaming was still but a child.
At least Zool looks good. This is one of the few things it has going for it, besides being a generally charming game.
The backgrounds and foregrounds are as luscious as they would be if they came from Sonic the Hedgehog, and they’re mashed in with bright colors befitting of any cartoony platformer. Zool himself still looks the part, even if he does look stupid.
Good graphics aren’t everything, though. Good control is what matters—something that Gremlin has never heard of.
Setting the default jump button to B instead of C makes no sense. Having no controller re-mapping to alter this mistake makes me sad. And if the controls didn’t suck enough, the physics themselves are the most flawed element of this game.
Zool is fast. Really, really bloody fast. I understand that Gremlin Interactive was looking to make a Sonic beater, as was everyone back then, but making Zool run faster than the speed of sound had major repercussions.
The largest problem that arises from this is that the game is mostly unplayable when (or rather, IF) you get past World 2. Now that’s too big a problem to just ignore.
To beat the game with the continues turned up to 5 is still just as hard as beating it with none—you’re just giving yourself more chances to die.
Also, Zool tends to move too quickly for my eyes to keep up. Holding right on the controller and occasionally pressing jump, Zool speeds off into enemy bullets and dies…again.
He can’t even jump straight—you waste all the level timer trying to fit into some of the stupidly tight jumps you have to do, all the while avoiding bouncing balls that can kill you by barely colliding with you.
Ah, of course! The collision is miles off, too!
If Zool even barely touches an enemy or a spiked surface, he loses one of his health squares. Before you know it, you’re dead from hitting something that looked like scenery but sure as hell stung like a War Wasp.
There are enemies in the workbench level that can kill you without colliding with you at all, because their “hit-area” is LARGER than their sprite.
You can recover health, but you have to catch it, as it flies away from you. As if the game wasn’t already hard enough.
Hyperbole, maybe. But this game is tough. It seems to get easier nearer the end for some strange reason, kind of like Gears of War 2.
Zool: Ninja of the “Nth” Dimension could be much slower, and it would actually work in its favor—being a bit more Tenchu or Ninja Gaiden would have worked wonders.
You will hit “Save State” and “Load State” more times than you’d ever wish to.
Getting to the end is a chore, but it’s possible, although clearly not plausible. I can never get the cheat codes to work, so it’s a terribly long trek of F5s and F8s until I get there—and for what!? Oh, you’ll see. I’m leaving the best ’til last.
No final boss, no climax, and no battle with Krool, who supposedly made your ship crash in the first place.
Oh, Zoolie, you nut, now c’mon. Just relax, c’mon. Why do you have to be so violent, huh? Why do you have to be so verbose and brash and feisty?
I want to like you, Zool. But you don’t want to like me.
No matter how damn good this soundtrack is, I cannot recommend a game, food, or person who has rejected me. Thusly, Zool sits alone as a game of note, but definitely not one of enjoyment.
The amount of secret levels, all of which finding by accident would be very unlikely, proves that some effort went into making Zool unique, even if the levels themselves feel the same once you’re three quarters of the way through the game.
But in all honestly, this game is certainly not “so varied” and “so incredible” as the back of the box states, but rather “so repetitive” and “so ordinary.” It is round and long-lasting. You could do so much better—go play Operation Starfish instead, which is everything this game is, and then some.
As punishments go, the ending sums the whole game up pretty nicely—it was a complete waste of time.