Saturday, December 03, 2016

Zool


Zool was released in 1993 by one of the most acclaimed gaming companies, Gremlin Graphics and it's even one of the few titles to support the enhanced hardware lurking inside the Atari STe. This first appears a Sonic clone and does indeed have many similarities but, Sonic it ain't. This disappointed many back in the day (like me) but I figured enough time had passed and I really should give this zippy insect another second chance...

Our hero is a rather odd critter; a badly disguised ninja ant (I think) who is from the "Nth Dimension" and can run, climb, leap and even perform a silly airborne pirouette. He's on a mission to travel six worlds and prove himself worthy of earning the black belt accolade he so richly desires. Each world is split into three segments of progressive difficulty and, of course, are littered with traps and countless baddies to constantly contend with. The first is "Sweet World" and could be a child's best-ever dream : an entire planet made of candy but is also stocked full of killer sweets, like wobbly jelly and a cute rapid-firing dolly mixture! The second is musically themed and features killer instruments like bongo drums and even some nice ones that play helpful musical notes. However, this is about as far as I've managed to get so I'm extremely grateful for a handy cheat mode which allows me to play on the later levels (and I must admit to being laughably impressed by the Meccano styles in tool world)

Collecting the items is the name of the game and, in Sweet World, that means candy. Look to the bottom / left of your screen which displays how many are still required with an arrow pointing you in the right direction. Thankfully, there are restart points from which to continue your adventure but it will never be easy when each level has such a cruel layout of traps and a huge number of baddies. Controls are absolutely superb - intuitive and very responsive with the option to use inertia, which I personally leave disabled. Keep banging on that fire button for a rapid firepower onslaught and if you tap it again (during a jump) then a pirouette manoeuvre is actioned to rapidly kill anything dumb enough to get in the way. Power-ups are also frequently available to help ease your hectic adventure like Two Zool - your very own doppelganger. Like all ninjas, Zool has an energy shield which can be replenished during play but it can survive only three hits before you're as dead as a dodo.

Don't forget to wear your sunglasses - this is one of the gaudiest games I have ever played and almost feels like they have utilised each and every colour. But, it works, and it works ever so beautifully with some of the most creative landscapes and sprites. In fact, the sprites are downright gorgeous and I love that purple dolly mixture. Atari STe users will be thrilled to witness more colours and everything scrolling along at an alarming 50fps. However, backgrounds are a boring compared to similar titles and there is a little slowdown during some busier scenes. Audio is bang on superb and they've done a great job with both the sound effects and optional chip tunes. It would have been nice to hear DMA effects, especially noticeable in world two with the oddly silent musical instruments.

Zool is sadly far from perfect with some frustrating mechanics that ultimately spoil what could have been a cracking game. For example, don't expect to whizz through, like our spiky hedgehog friend, because each world appears designed to contradict our Ninja's spritely abilities and it won't be long before you slam into something nasty, which is weird really...

There are too many deadly objects which are often offscreen and too easy to bump into but, ultimately, the constantly respawning baddies frustrated me the most. Whilst these definitely make for a busy adventurer they soon become a tiresome overkill. However, having said all this, I'm shocked to admit that I'm actually enjoying this imperfect platformer. It is certainly stuffed full of action but if you're hoping Zool is our Sonic, you will be disappointed.

Overall, a good platformer which is actually better than I remember. It should entertain you for several hours but I cannot recommend it unless you have an Atari STe. Now, for some peculiar reason, I feel an urge for Chupa Chups!!

LINKS

 - 8BitChip always has the best download for those with the storage hardware.
 - The guys from D-Bug are another than never disappoint and offer a great download.
 - For those stuck using floppy disks then Old Games Finder will ease your pain!
 - AtariMania not only feature Zool within their ST database website but have the manual and code wheel!
 - My own video recording but Wasabim has an even better video showing off several levels.
 - To cheat simply type in PANDA on the main menu and you will see a flicker. During a game press:
          -> Spacebar 1 - will make you invincible.
          -> Spacebar 2 - to skip forward onto the next stage.
          -> Spacebar 3 - to skip forward onto the next world.