15/05/2023

Zool Redimensioned PS4 Review 8/10 "A Celebration of a Very Nineties Game" ๐Ÿฌ๐Ÿญ @WeAreSecretMode #IndieGames #GameDev

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You must feel sorry for Zool, the Ninja from the Nth Dimension. He's fast, he's nimble, he's the star of his own 2D side-scroller... but he got introduced to the world right between the releases of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Poor guy never stood a chance.

Despite not becoming a mascot for the entire industry and inspiring two Jim Carrey vehicles, Zool maintains a place in my heart and some small cult status among fans who didn't grow up with a Nintendo or Sega console. He wasn't Mario or Sonic, but he was ours.

Thirty years after his first title, Sumo Digital Academy (an internship based in Sheffield) has built a remarkably faithful remake, essentially presenting the game as it was with some welcome tweaks to the gameplay, a surprising number of visual options and some fun modes to give this very old, very short game a new lease of life.
In fact, Redimensioned is as 'definitive' a version of a game as you could want. The levels are faithfully recreated in all the pixelated, trippy glory. The frankly banging, soundtrack is back, which set off my member berries more than anything else. The visual options are fun, giving the choice to play in 'CRT monitor' mode, adding a lovely nostalgic "Oh God how did we play games like this?" feel.

The most significant addition is the different zoom options allowing you to pull the camera back. This shows off more of the level but more importantly reduces the number of times Zool will just charge head-first into a jelly bean, flying cymbal or power drill (they are really, really weird levels). 
It's pretty brilliant that Sumo Digital Academy lets you play with these views instead of locking the one option as standard. Part of the fun is seeing how this version compares to what came before.

Gameplay is familiar but tweaked. From memory Zool is noticeably less "floaty" and more responsive here and wall jumping is no longer a nightmare. I was feeling pretty smug breezing through the levels before reading that Sumo has consciously reduced the original's brutal difficulty. Still, if even that proves a bit fiddly there are cheat/accessibility options if the bosses start annoying you.

I mentioned earlier the game is short.
I didn't know what the story was when I was seven and I'll be damned if I know what it is now. Zool crashes on a 'candy' planet, then he's on a music planet, then some more planets, and then it ends. It's not challenging The Last of Us' narrative by any stretch and I wondered if the studio even considered adding some more cutscenes to flesh things out or if that would have gone against what they were trying to achieve?

Regardless, it's a success. The goal seems to simply be a celebration of a very nineties game, which we're all for. It's fun and for lack of a better word...cosy. More importantly, it doesn't feel cynical, or cheap which these days is something of a miracle.

Summary
Zool Redimensioned doesn't reinvent the Zool wheel. 
It's less a remake than a historical document. 
It's a charming recreation of a charming little game.

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