James Matson asks the question – if you can’t be a hedgehog or a plumber, what will you be? The answer seems obvious; a Ninja from the Nth dimension.
We can’t all be Sonic or Mario. The Sega mascot was (and still is) responsible for some of the finest moments of gaming, while Nintendo’s undisputed hero could arguably be thanked for partly keeping the big ‘N’ in business in the face of stiff competition from rival console platforms. While there are some game mascots who reach the lofty heights of this mainstream success, there are more obscure game characters who never quite break into the big time despite perhaps being deserving. Gremlin Graphics ‘Zool’ is one such toon, hardly a household name but the main star in a platformer that (still) deserves a noteworthy mention.
Zool was to be the face of the Commodore Amiga, the kind of platform character you use to sell a platform, bundling it with units and strapping it to merchandise. Whether or not Zool was any kind of decent commercial success shouldn’t take away from the fact it was an admirable platform game. As Zool, a ninja from the ‘Nth’ dimension (yeah, okay – so that’s a little cringe-worthy), the player must make their way through several different themed worlds smashing monsters and collecting points bonuses and the like.
The first world you’ll encounter is ‘sweet world’ which as the name suggests is literally covered in chupa chups, life savers and other assorted candy. Actually, the chuppa chups are a little concerning, as they’re very obviosuly ‘chuppa’ and not generic lollipops. The in-your-face product placement is an interesting use of in-game advertising back when in-game advertising wasn’t yet a big deal. Thankfully, confectionery tie-ins aside, the gameplay is fluid and fast, the graphics colorful and bold and sound effects really lend a lot to the fun of whizzing through the levels collecting things and squashing bad guys.
From sweet world it’s onto a bunch of other cool themed levels including Music world, Toy world, even shoot-em-up world hidden among the others, but we didn’t get to experience them. This game is hard you see, not hard like “oh, that’ll be a nice challenge!”, hard like “You want me to bend my elbows to where while reciting backwards the known planets in the solar system in descending order of their gravitational mass?” hard.
Yeah, that hard. Maybe we just suck, but we’re almost entirely sure we don’t, in which case Zool is freakishly hard even in the first level, enough to put one black mark against this otherwise awesome platform game. Don’t let difficulty deter you though, Zool is still worthy of your playing time. It’s crisp, bold and it’s quite easy to get into a ‘groove’ of playing that will have you entertained for a while. A lovable main character and tons of collectible points, power-ups and secrets round out a decent romp.
Don’t get any of the ports or conversions of the title either (there are a stack! SNES and Megadrive to name two) try to source the Amiga version, that’s the one you’ll want, if for no other reason than it was the birthplace of Zool and the most…fitting platform to play it on.