Bad News For Hedgehogs!

HIGH It’s somewhat nice to see Zool back in his original form…

LOW …which reminds me it wasn’t that great to start with.

WTF The bleeding banana will haunt my dreams for years to come.

Back in 1992, the release of the original Sonic The Hedegehog drastically changed the gaming landscape. Suddenly, every software house wanted to work on a fast-paced 2D platformer and create its own mascot — an issue that especially preoccupied developers for home computers like the Commodore Amiga. Following this trend, Gremlin Graphics released the original version of Zool in 1992.

The titular ninja from the Nth Dimension crash-lands on an unfamiliar planet and will have to get through various obstacles to escape. While it may be a title that some gamers of a certain age may feel a bit of nostalgia for, the original Zool (along with a conversion for every console imaginable at the time) reveals just how important the level design was in making the Sonic games so memorable and appreciated. Unfortunately, Zool just doesn’t stack up.

As it’s now 2021, Zool has received a facelift. This version is the original platformer with a difficulty rebalance, a CRT graphics filter for added fidelity to the original and a zoomed-out view to allow the player see more of the screen. Overall, these changes make Zool a more approachable experience than it used to be, but they do not improve it on a fundamental level.

Each level in Zool lasts no more than a couple of minutes, and it’s time usually spent jumping from platform to platform or finding one’s way through the lower sections that require defeating enemies by shooting or jumping/gliding into them. This is a simple flavor of 2D platforming that feels inherently ’90s, and no filter can change that. Also, the end-of-stage bosses are pretty forgettable, some of which I defeated on my first try.

Redimensioned comes in two flavors which mainly act as difficulty — the original experience and the Ultimate Ninja mode. I would recommend most ’90s players to try the latter, as I finished the original with 15 lives to spare and never had a problem in most levels.

After completing seven stages and thirty-something levels, the Zool Redimensioned experience is basically over and done with. The changes made to ths version were well thought-out, but they do little to hide the fact that the original material was just an okay-at-best ’90s platformer and the intervening years haven’t done it any favors in terms of game design or graphics. Those who have nostalgia for it should check it out — all others should give it a pass.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Sumo Digital Academy and published by Secret Mode. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PC. Approximately three hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: The game is not rated by the ESRB but it contains Mild Fantasy Violence. Considering the overall kid-friendly content, I would definitely recommend it to all audiences, but I would guess kids would need a bit of help since the game has that old-school ’90s difficulty.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The few story bits in the game are subtitled, while no audio cues are needed for gameplay, but subtitles cannot be resized or altered. In my view, the game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: the game controls fine with a controller, using the d-pad to move around, X to shoot, A to jump and B to use the glide attack. Controls can be remapped.

Damiano Gerli
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Kevin G.
1 year ago

Zool has always been one of my favorite characters from just about every game at least in art work. Like so many of the retro games we tend to find that what we enjoyed or didn’t enjoy back then is overshadowed by the current game graphics that we enjoy now.