Developed by Sumo Digital Academy (though originally developed by Gremlin Graphics) and published by Secret Mode, Zool Redimensioned is a remake of the cult classic 2D platformer Zool: Ninja Of The Nth Dimension, which released on the Amiga back in 1992.
Coming from an Amiga household, I have fond memories of seeing ol’ Zool appearing in the various gaming magazines (Remember those?). And I remember seeing and reading a lot about Zool, but never had chance to play it. But now almost thirty years later, I do… kind of. It is a re-imagining after all. And I am pleased to say that Zool Redimensioned is a fantastic game that takes a forgotten classic of PC gaming and boosts it up to the Nth degree. However it has a few rough edges here and there, which I shall soon discuss.
Zool Redimensioned is currently available on PC via Steam.
STORY – GREMLIN GRUMBLING
Zool Redimensioned tells the story of Zool, an alien gremlin ninja from the Nth dimension who is currently tasked with hunting down the sinister Krool. That is pretty much the extent of the story in the game. There is no opening cutscene to tell you this and what I know of the story is what I have learnt from completing the game and having read promo material. And whilst it is disappointing that there is nothing to even give us a heads up of what we are doing in this game, it is understandable why that is the case.
This title comes from an era when almost all the storytelling was done either on the back of the box or in the manual (disk space was limited after all). So the fact there isn’t much in terms of storytelling is understandable as it is sticking close to its roots. However, the fact there isn’t much at all is kind of a bummer.
I mean, let’s face it: it’s not 1992 anymore and even a short blurb or cutscene in game would have been nice. There is one at the end of the game and it is charming enough. I just wish there was more of it. Or at the very least one at the start of our game. Still, this isn’t a narrative heavy game, so what it doesn’t have it doesn’t miss. The main draw to Zool Redimensioned is it’s gameplay, and what there is really shines.
GAMEPLAY – NTRANCING
Zool Redimensioned is a 2D Platformer much in the style of its 90’s videogame contemporaries; he is an alien ninja gremlin with attitude! However mechanically, it feels like a three way cross of Super Mario Bros, Sonic The Hedgehog, and Mega Man.
Our character moves fast like Sonic but has more precise platforming to contend with, which makes it feel more Mario-like, and Zool has a ranged attack and bosses that feel like they have walked in from the Mega Man game next door. The combination of these three styles really shouldn’t work, however remarkably it does. And not only does it work but it creates a game that honestly makes me wonder why more people aren’t talking about it.
The controls and speed of Zool could feel a little too much for some gamers; I have heard some complain that the game feels a little slippery at times. I’ve never had that issue. I mean, as fast as the game is it never gets too fast where the speed can be an issue. But that all depends on how you play it and the mode that you play in.
Zool Redimensioned has two game modes. Redimensioned mode is a more modern take on the game. Or at least modern by 1992’s standards; you have a double jump (which helps with the Zool’s controls) and there is no collection target in the level. The second mode is Ultimate Ninja. This is more closely tied to the mechanics of the original title and offers a more challenging experience. In this mode, you can’t double jump and you have to collect a certain number of items in a level to be allowed to advance to the next.
The total required varies from level to level, but generally speaking they are rather generously handed out. You can also play an emulation of the Sega Mega Drive version of the game which is far harder than the Ultimate Ninja mode; levels are timed, there are fewer collectibles to be found, you have less health, and the controls aren’t as refined. So if you desperately want to play a slipper, less responsive, and harder to navigate version of the game, it is for you.
Both the main modes feature tight enough controls, and in full motion the game is a colourful joy to watch and play. Zool Redimensioned is decently well designed and has a gradual difficulty curve which honestly never feels too unfair or too challenging. Though to be honest with you, dear reader, Ultimate Ninja mode is honestly easier than I thought it would be. Though to be fair, I did play that after completing the game. So how hard or not you find the title as a whole is one of those “Your mileage may vary” kind of deals.
Zool Redimensioned isn’t without its flaws, however. The layouts of some levels can feel a little too confusing to navigate, meaning that you can easily miss some of the larger collectibles. This isn’t a game where you simply head right all the time; sometimes your goal is directly above or below you. Which is fine in itself; however the levels will remain almost as large as one and the other, meaning there is a lot of those levels you’ll simply never see unless you go exploring for collectibles.
Also, it isn’t clear at first what certain power-ups do when you first get them. There is a Sonic-style invincibility, which you don’t realise is invincibility until you find you aren’t taking damage (there isn’t even a musical cure with it). There is also a power which creates a copy of you that mimics your moves and fires projectiles at the same time you do. Which whilst cool, it isn’t so clear what it is at first and had me worrying I had summoned an evil shadow version of myself that I needed to escape.
Some of Zool’s built-in abilities feel a little underwhelming for what they are. With many of them never feeling quite as powerful or useful as they should. The sliding kick you can do feels too short-ranged, the sword swipe move you can do whilst jumping feels redundant seeing as you can just throw projectiles constantly, and the slam move you can do when jumping never seems to ever get used. Not even in a boss fight!
Plus, Zool Redimensioned as a whole is on the short side. If it really hooks you then you could easily complete the Redimensioned mode in about two hours or fewer. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a great two hours for what it is. And if it leaves a good impression on you then you’ll be wanting to play Ultimate Ninja mode soon after.
However, I’ll be honest and say that it has been hard for me to find much at fault in the title. Zool Redimensioned is a fantastic take on a forgotten classic. With a drum-tight gameplay loop which makes it enjoyable to replay and return to. It isn’t perfect by any means, but it is everything a game like this needs to be.
GRAPHICS & SOUND – TOO COOL FOR ZOOL
Zool Redimensioned is a brightly coloured and well-designed game with some terribly creative locations and monster designs. As someone who grew up on Amiga games back in the day, it is honestly rather lovely to see an art style like this in HD. Even if seeing the sprite work at the size it is feels a little odd at times; everything looks far smaller than I’d have expected.
The knock-on effect of that means being able to see more of the levels as you explore them. Which makes finding items and plotting a course easy to do. And at the very least means I get plenty of forewarning before I run into something, something that many of the Sonic The Hedgehog games can’t lay claim to. However, unlike Mr. Needlemouse, Zool Redimensioned‘s baddies and obstacles can easily fade into the background, but more on that in a moment.
THE SPICE OF LIFE
The game consists of seven worlds in total each with four levels. These worlds have their own themes; from a sweet world, to a toy world, to a fun fair world. In addition, each world has its own baddies themed to the world they are in; some are more reskins of previous creatures whilst some are unique to them.
This offers a lot of variety to the game and ensures that there is always something new to see and new challenges to overcome. But if there is one negative to that, it is that sometimes it can take a few moments to get your bearings when entering a new world, but that soon passes after a level or two.
A SLIGHT PRICK
If there is one major negative with the design of the game, it’s that some obstacles and monsters can easily be hard to see in some levels. Almost expertly hiding in the level art, not so much out of design but due to how busy some levels can look and how sometimes it can be hard to make out what is an obstacle to avoid and what is a background element, until it is too late.
There are many times, especially in the final world of the game, where I’d find myself quickly losing all my health because I unwittingly stood on a cactus which I didn’t see. And given that you don’t get much of a post-hit invincibility, you can soon get killed in a matter of seconds if you don’t realise what is happening. It’s annoying to say the least. But at the very least it is something that you can try and remember next time you are in that area.
Musically speaking, Zool Redimensioned offers a soundtrack that has all the flare and style that one would hope for from a title of its era, remastered and reborn. Giving it a sensation of feeling fresh out of the early 90’s but in the best possible way. The quality of the tracks can vary musically speaking, however. That isn’t to say there are any tracks that are bad, not at all. I just wasn’t quite as ‘in’ to some tracks as others.
Some tracks are more rock-sounding, others more in the style of early to mid 1990’s dance. And whilst I do feel that some levels have better sound tracks than others, as a whole entity, Zool Redimensioned‘s soundtrack is fine to listen to. Sometimes being amazing, other times perfectly listenable.
Zool Redimensioned was reviewed on PC. Game key was provided by Tara Bruno PR.