Posted 19 Dec 2002 at 01:25 by Andy
ZooCube represents a very rare type of game these days. It's original. It's not a huge license. It has no links into a movie or TV series and it's not even an arcade conversion. This intrigued me immediately, as it was an unknown quantity and with many games publishers playing so safe for years now, what made this so special? It could be that for years now everyone in the games industry has been searching for the Tetris beater. A simple but addictive game, that can transfer to any format and has no specific gender bias. All these aspects mean big sales to the winning publisher but, hey, I'm getting ahead of myself so why not read on and find out exactly what ZooCube is all about
Visually ZooCube is a mixed bag and in some respects the display is actually clearer on the GBA. This has a lot to do with the contrived storyline and overambitious graphics depicting the various gaming areas. The problem is that the developers have tried to escape puzzle gaming convention without fully understanding why this genre of games has for so long supported bland visuals. It doesn't distract from the gameplay too much but it really doesn't help it either. The FMV that links the various levels together is a lot more pleasing but not even close to the lush and fluid animation that the GameCube can handle with such ease.
The audio department has really never been the most important aspect of any puzzler and ZooCube is no exception. Most of the sound is given over to alerts when something on screen happens, be it good, bad or indifferent and there is some rather pleasing ambient background music, which in some respects calms the player as the pace of the game increases. It won't be to everyone's taste though as a true puzzle addict informs me 'silence is golden'.
The basic idea behind ZooCube is simple - join two objects of the same shape and color to cancel them out. Simple on one level at least but where ZooCube is really challenging is the fact that the whole thing is presented in a 3D environment with objects coming from every direction. Your hub (or ZooCube) can be rotated in various directions and it's up to you, using your skill and judgement, to match the various shapes and so rescue the animals. The fact that they do actually represent various Zoo creatures (hence the name) is something I haven't mentioned before because, to be honest, it enhances the gaming experience in no way whatsoever.
Where ZooCube differs from similar puzzlers is the ability to shuffle the various shapes even when they are attached to the ZooCube. This allows you to form pairings that would be impossible in other games and also gives you a greater chance of success as if you have any more than five shapes on any of the ZooCube's sides then it's all over. Another useful gaming aspect is the ability to lock a shape passage to a side and then move on to another section. This is essential later on in the game when not only are the shapes more varied but they also arrive at different speeds.
Bonus items are plentiful and getting them just at the right moment can increase your score significantly. There are also the ever-helpful smart bombs but as there are only three of them it is important to save them until things really get hairy. In addition to the single play modes there are also multiplayer options for up to four people at once. These can be played against one another or in a type of co-operative mode but after trying out the two-player mode, in my opinion, the single player option is far more satisfying.
ZooCube is one of those deceptively simply affairs where you start out trying to figure out what's going on and the next thing you know, you're addicted. Play with care because if you're anything like me you'll discover that you've mysteriously lost a few hours in the day after every session.
Like Tetris, this is another endless game that can be dipped into whenever you feel like working out the grey matter although real addicts will always find they have to give it just one more go to beat their last score. Unfortunately like some of the classic puzzlers, saturation will eventually kick in and then ZooCube will simply reside in the 'played' pile next to your GameCube.
As with all puzzlers ZooCube is not for everyone and even playing for ten minutes or so you may not really see what all the fuss is about but give it a chance and you'll either consider it the best product since sliced bread or just another bland puzzler. Even taking all this into consideration though the actual gameplay lends itself far more to a handheld format and for that reason alone, if you actually own a Gameboy Advance, you're probably better going for that version.
N-Europe Final Verdict
ZooCube's original and addictive qualities are worth at least a look from every GameCube owner.
More Suited to the Gameboy Advance