But that's not all! There's even a hidden shoot 'em up level - again, divided up in to three sub-sections. These sub-sections are hidden around the game in different locations. (Here's a clue, though: Try jumping around the place somewhere near the beginning of music world, tool world, and toy world.)
Although the thought of a shoot 'em up section in the game may sound like a nice addition, it slows down frequently, and isn't likely to cause late nights for something like Project X. Still, let's not be too cynical - it's still there if you want it (which you won't).
If you've studied my comments about the levels, I'm sure you'll be thinking that I'm not too keen on Zool. Well, for the first time ever, in an utterly exclusive fashion, I'm going to give you my comments throughout the development of Zool, and then you'll see why I'm a smidgeon disappointed. Read on...
When I first heard about Zool: I was excited, basically. You see, George Allan - the programmer of the brilliant (and now budget-priced) Switchblade 2 - was to program his own 'Sonic-beater'. Now being a big fan of Sonic, I was 'over the moon'.
A couple of months later: I saw some pre-production shots of Zool - it looked great.
1 month after that: I was told by the programmer that "It would move extremely fast, and run at 50 frames per second."
"That's great!" I said, as he interrupted me. "It will use full PAL display, and full 32 colours, plus more with the copper-chip." I thought this wasn't possible, until...
Another couple of months later: ... I saw that it was (possible, that is). I played an early version, with no slow-down, and stacks going on. It was great.
Later that year, the game was released: "Right," I said, "I'll go and get it now." I loaded it up when I got back, and I was disappointed.
Right, now I've told you a paragraph of my auto-biography (and filled up a large proportion of this review to boot), I'll give an explanation about
why I was disappointed...
Well... the game was okay for a couple of minutes, but everything then went into jerk-o-vision.
Things didn't improve after the first
level either - baddies continued to jerk and go slowly. "Really 50 frames per second" I hummed in sarcastic tones to myself. If you have sound effects instead of music, things improve slightly, but the difference is minute - certainly a lot slower than the pre-production version I played some months before. What could have happened?
When the A1200 version came along some months later, I was expecting little slow-down. My expectations were too high - the programmers bypassed the '020, so the game was just as jerky as the standard version, albeit with nice backgrounds. (Which I'll tell you about a little later.)
Okay, I'm moaning a lot, and after a bit, you (sort of) get used to the frame rate, but I like my games to have silky scrolling, and silky Zool is not.
Another complaint is the music - it's rock 'n' roll crazy, and it's awful. Sorry, I know an awful lot of you'd like it, but after coming from the brilliant tunes of Sonic, I was left thinking someone had dumped a broken guitar in my monitor (or something). Let's face it - bad music is the thing that turns a good platform game into a not-so-good platform game.
As mentioned earlier, the music slows the game down, and even takes away the sound effects, so now you have three good reasons why not to opt for any of the four stinking, sorry, 'stonking' soundtracks available.
So, down goes the rating for the sound, then, but I'm happy to report that the graphics are up to scratch. On the A600, the backgrounds are a bit bland (with just a shaded copper bar), but the main sprite is well animated, and the enemies also look the part.
The A1200 version includes fully detailed, fully coloured backgrounds. They're a bit of a cop-out, mind - you can just imagine the artist creating different pictures in Deluxe Paint and bunching them altogether, creating a 'floaty' kind of feel.
It looks quite impressive in its own right, but you only have to place it next to something like Sonic, and you'll see that Zool's graphics (even on the A1200) lack depth.
There are many options in there - which makes the game 'console-esque'. You can choose the difficulty setting (which alters the amount of time you have on each level - some difficulty setting, eh?), number of continues (er, number of continues, I guess), and whether you'd like inertia on or not (have it 'on'). Oh yes, you can even change the overall 'speed' of the game - problem is, the faster it goes, the slower it goes (if you know what I mean), and I rarely found myself selecting 'fast' after the first time (never, in fact).
The idea of each level is to collect a number of items (on Sweet world, you collect sweets, Tool world - tools, and so on, and so forth). In other words, you reach the exit to the level, find you haven't enough items, and then go backtracking through the level - which is boring. (I mean, will there ever be a computer platform game which just involves reaching the exit?)
The loading times can also be a little tedious - which is just as well it supports a second disk drive to avoid the swapping in between 'goes'... Except that it doesn't - great if you've just bought yourself an external drive.
And as I'm still talking about disk-related malarkey, upon loading the game, you're presented with a 'protection' code - in the form of a 'fun' wheel. Honestly, protection code is pointless - it just wastes time, and pirates find ways around it anyway.
The intro's quite impressive, with some more rock 'n' roll (although it isn't quite as bad as the in-game music). Zool then leaps in and shows off his athletic abilities, with loads of sound samples adding to the proceedings somewhat. If you're lucky enough to have an A1200, you even get a nice picture of Zool in '256' colours, with some of the worlds displayed behind him.
From an Amiga owner's point of view, you're going to want a direct comparison with Sonic, and you've got one. (By the way, the comparison involves the first Sonic game, seeing as the sequel to Zool isn't out yet.)
Sonic: 9/10..... Zool: 7/10 - 7½/10 (A1200)
Sonic wins hands-down in this area - the backgrounds with parallax add a good impression of 'being there' and everything just looks so great. Zool has respectable graphics, but loses out on variety and depth.
Sonic: 9/10..... Zool: 5/10
Again, no problem as far as Sonic's concerned. The lush music is perfect for a platform game with high-speed thrills. Relaxing, refreshing, and great. Zool? Dire rock 'n' crash trash, with out-of-time, dire music, and no tune whatsoever (some of the samples can be okay, though).
Sonic: 9/10..... Zool: 7/10
Sonic is faster, doesn't slow down, and is great fun to play. Zool can be a drag at times.
Sonic: 8/10..... Zool: 7/10
Sonic may be easy to complete, but I'm still playing it now. I'm not still playing Zool now.
Sonic: 9/10..... Zool: 5/10
Sorry, Sonic wins again. The rotating maze filled to the brim with coins is far more pleasing than an average shoot 'em up which slows down.
Sonic: 44...... Zool: 32
Okay, this may seem criminally biased, but the fact of the matter is - Zool is not a Sonic-beater, and that's that. Sorry, the graphics are good, but there's no real speed, no proper music, and limited enjoyment.
Another problem I found with Zool is the lack of secret rooms. On the first level, there're a couple of walls to stash - leading to some bonuses, and later on in the game, there are a few more that lead to points. Big deal. I mean, where's the imagination? Something like Mario had secret rooms all over the place. Not just secret rooms, but secret levels and stages, too. This meant it was very rewarding... until magazines go and spoil everything by having player's guides all over the place, that is. Putting things into perspective, you effectively pay to limit the game's life-span, but by the looks of it - you're all for people
discovering things for you, and spoiling your fun. Oh well, it's your money you're wasting, not mine. (Incidentally, this mag. includes no cheats, tips 'n' maps section - we do practise what we preach, you know...)
I'm going a little off the beaten track here. I'm supposed to be writing an 'entertaining' and 'witty' review of Zool, aren't I? (Yes, you are, and now you're sacked! - Ed.) Ha, ha! Tricked you there, I am the editor, and there's now way I'm going to be sacked! Sorry, it seemed quite funny at the time.
Erm... so Zool. It's a good game - it's fun, graphically fine, sonically okay (in fact, you get a few more samples on the A1200 version)... apart from the music, of course, and it's reasonably big; but it's not better than Sonic. You can go to sleep relaxed now, Sega owners.