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Released: 1993

Genre: Platformer

Format reviewed: Sega Master System

Publisher: Gremlin Graphics Software ltd.

Developer: Gremlin Graphics Software ltd.

Submitted by: Lee Tatlock

Platform characters, what can you say about ‘em…well there where a heck of a lot of them back in the day, and all of them where out to try and make it as a Mario or a Sonic. So how many are still knocking around…erm…well Mario and Sonic really. There are a good few I’d love to see make a well deserved return though like Alex Kidd, that effort from Starquake, Wonderboy, Earthworm Jim, Dynamite Dan, Dynamite Headdy and Kid Icarus (the new 3DS version looks too far removed from the original for my liking) to name but a few, but for every one I want to see back on my screen there are a ton I either couldn’t care less about or, worse still, would rather never existed at all (bog off Bubsy the Bobcat). Zool has to be prime candidate for the ‘couldn’t care less’ category. Read on to find out why even though I find Zool so very, very, massively repulsive what keeps me from wishing I could go back in time and destroy some code.

Straight off you look at Zool and think ‘Hmm Ninja from the Nth Dimension, that don’t sound too bad at all,’ but if The Cyber Shinobi or Ninja Reflex taught us anything it’s that the Ninja’s that inhabit the dark forests of the gaming world can often be less than awesome, much less. One can only wonder what the heck was going on in the offices Gremlin when they thought up this Frankenstein’s monster made of some of the most pitiful elements of nearly platform game ever made. So let’s try to analyze the chunks that went into making this unholy, hulking, mediocrity.

Taking one part Sonic – you know the parts where you go hurtling into an enemy at top speed while screaming at your TV like a banshee, two parts Psycho Fox like the controls but without the ultimate pay off of controllability and the cutesy enemies but without the nice design, and finally take a chunk of any given lesser heard of Amiga platformer with nice graphics but dodgy production values and there you have it: Zool. It’s just an ode to everything that’s directly left of being quite right.

Firstly I’m not a fan of any of the level design on hand; they just feel bunged together in an attempt to create as many leaps of faith and moments of frustration as possible. Secondly Zool is quite a decent looking little character with his pointy ears and sometimes endearing animations, however nearly every enemy you will encounter looks like they’ve been copied straight out of the how to not design interesting or substantial characters hand book. Most are just so uninteresting and puny that they look as though they where originally designed for a handheld console then transported to the big screen with a flagrant disregard for scale. Bosses are bigger but fighting a bee made of liquorish allsorts or a bog eyed blob is not going to be high on anyone’s list of threatening or interesting foes.

So what else could be wrong? Well the controls are in the vein of Sonic but you often feel so out of control that landing a simple platform can result in you slipping off down a spike pit like you’re riding a soapy badger. While, on the other hand, crawling up a wall is a sloth like affair and jumping from said walls onto a tiny platform is only going to result in you completely forgetting all the cool games Gremlin Graphics ever made and laughing like an evil genius at their demise. Now you can get used to the controls to some degree but you’ll never quite trust them, plus Zool may be able to reach some high speeds but the levels are completely counterintuitive to such movement with next to no places that require you to reach such high velocities.  Pants I say. Not only are the levels badly designed but also completely uninspired with your typical levels made of sweets and toys being high on the list of offenders. What the heck would an interdimensional ninja be doing in these realms of vomit inducing colour and skin crawlingly twee design? Worse than that though you’ll ask yourself time after time what you are doing enduring this puke, and there is no answer to that question other than to unplug your SMS, pull out the cartridge and send it hurtling into the distance….on fire.

So my only real reason for not chucking Zool into the next passing bin lorry is my teary eyed, sentimental, reflective nature regarding Gremlin Graphics – yup it’s that simple, and selfish, there is no doubt that the game is a total quivering wreck that reminds me of the worst of the worst like Wolfchild or something equally bone chilling, but I miss Monty Mole and Jack the Nipper and have nothing but respect for the late company that made them….plus I love cola flavoured Chupa Chups.


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Released: 1992

Genre: Platformer

Format reviewed: Amiga 500

Publisher: Gremlin Graphics

Developer: Gremlin Graphics

Submitted by: Kai Lunkeit

From the makers of the brilliant SUPER CARS and LOTUS ESPRIT games comes this cute platformer, starring Zool, ninja from the n-th dimension!

Zool can not only jump and run but also climb and the speed with which he dashes through the levels reminds the player of the great SONIC games.

Seven different worlds, subdivided into three stages, wait to be mastered which makes 21 levels in total. The first world, named "Sweet World", is filled with candy bars, lollipops (from a well-known manufacturer – talk about product placement) and smarties. Of course there are the usual extras like smart bombs, super jumps and a cool feature where you will be duplicated. The next world is "Music World" where you fight against evil instruments and headphones, followed by "Fruit World", "Shoot'em up World" and others.

At the beginning of the game you can decide whether to start with up to five continues and choose from three levels of difficulty. You can also decide if you want only fx during your play or additional music (rock, funk, rave, green).

You won't find anything completely new or innovative in ZOOL, but it's a fun platformer that keeps you entertained for quite a while.