When Zool came out for the first time on consoles and handhelds, this world was a lot different then it is now. However Americans like myself were in the era of the “Chupa Chups”. A Chupa Chups, was a lollipop that was once all the rage, back in 1992. They came in many flavors and contained a ton of sugar and kept a then ten-year old Jimmy bouncing off the walls.
During that era, Zool was arguably the best platformer available on the Amiga home computer. Sponsored by the aforementioned Chupa Chups, it quickly spread to PC, Megadrive/Genesis, and nearly all home computers that were available at the time. However, just as swiftly as it arrived, it disappeared, much like the Chupa Chups itself. Now, 29 years later, it is resurrected from it’s eternal slumber. Like many other nostalgic classics it has undergone a remastering (or redimensioning so you will) which is now released on Steam and PlayStation 4 (and 5). Of course, with new features that cater to both the older and newer fans of this once proud series. Unfortunately, the Chupa Chup did not join the ride due to legal reasons.
Editor Danny here, interrupting this review! Chupa Chups are still pretty popular in Europe, especially in its country of origin, Spain 🙂
Sumo Digital Academy
An intriguing aspect of this remaster is that it was developed by the Sumo Digital Academy, which is Sumo Digital’s talent development program designed to provide aspiring devs internships and a kick start in their game development careers. What’s even more fascinating is that this program is supported by industry veterans George Allan and Jacob Hangood as the support team. Allan is the creative mind behind the original Zool. It’s not surprising, then, that Zool Redimensioned is the first project fully developed by the academy’s interns.
What is a “Zool”?
Zool is a gremlin ninja, (not so) coincidentally named after the company that created this game in 1992. He originates from the Nth Dimension and has come to Earth to earn his ‘Ninja Ranking.’ Zool must conquer seven lands in order to achieve this ultimate, albeit vaguely described, goal. The worlds are named and themed as Sweet, Music, Fruit, Tool, Toy, Fair, and Sand. Each world is further divided into four sections, culminating in a boss battle. Similar to the original game, the gameplay is packed with enemies, providing an extremely fast-paced experience that demands mastery of jumps, double jumps, stun moves, and, of course, the collection of candy, fruit, and other collectibles.
Zool, and then some
This remastering, if you will, consists of three main parts. The first part is ‘Redimensioned,’ which offers a modern experience where you no longer need to collect a specific number of collectibles as in the original game. It’s a fantastic mode for those looking to get started. In contrast to the original, which could become challenging due to its somewhat arbitrary collecting goals within each level.
‘Redimensioned-mode’ opens up the game to gamers who were put off by the grindy collectathon the original was. It also gives the core game a sense of standing the test of time much better. The implementation of speedrun goals, with a total of 28 available, adds significant replayability compared to the original game as well.
Doing it old school
The next mode is ‘Ultimate Ninja,’ which essentially recreates the original 1992 version of Zool. In this mode, double jumping is not available, and you must collect the required number of fruits and collectibles. This mode offers the original experience for players who want the play the original game. Additionally, there’s a party mode accessible after completing the tutorial and Level 1-1, both of which are relatively easy to accomplish.
The new party mode has three sub modes to explore. In ‘Zool’s Gold,’ the goal is to collect 10,000 points worth of collectibles before your opponent does. The second party game, ‘Rool of Zool,’ requires you and your couch companion to search for a crown randomly placed within the stage. Once found, the player must hold onto it for at least 51 percent of the stage, similar to the rules of Halo’s Oddball mode. Last but not least, we have ‘Ball Brawl,’ a soccer/basketball-type mini-game where the objective is to score five goals into either end of the screen while avoiding enemies to win. All three party modes are exclusively for two players and are limited to local multiplayer.
Assists and accessibility
Zool Redimensioned doesn’t stop there with bringing the game to 2023-standards. It also has a couple of added new accessibility features, one being the ability to use assists. There are three main and two minor assists. The most powerful being the ability to use turbo fire to mow down all enemies in your line of fire. Another is to be totally invincible which obviously makesthe game a walk in the park.
The last and third one is replacing the double jump with infinite jump, which essentially allows you to glitch your way through open air and through the levels. Other minor accessibility options are turning off the low health indicator and your ability to tinker with the contrast to make items more visible. The assists, come at a cost, though. They will disable any trophy progress in the PlayStation 4 version of this game. But they provide a way to see all stages and learn and train for speedruns.
Touching up the details
Zool Redimensioned looks stunningly great in HD and on a widescreen, for a game based off a 1992 graphical standards. All sprite work has been redone and look better than ever. All the original camera settings, as well as an added CRT mode (that is turned on by default) are available. The music and soundtrack are very well done. It’s an updated soundtrack of the original that feels right at home with the many modes and fast action gameplay. The only complaint I have is that I wished the soundtrack was available on CD. It hasn’t lost any of the charm of the original.
With all that I mentioned, I can’t put my hands down from this game for the last couple of days. Having played this game on seven of the ten systems this came out on in the 1990s, this hands down does not disappoint and breathes new life into the franchise. The gameplay is spot on with silky smooth controls, which is a godsend considering some of the original games demanded very nerve-wrackingly precise button inputs that made you wonder if the original was broken at times. Especially some of the lesser ports.
I personally have no complaints of this game, with the exception of world 3-4. If you are not careful, in the maze type layout, you will end up on the boss fight under the platform with no way to get to hit the boss at all. I am not sure if this is a glitch or not. I did not experience this in the 1990s classics, but it feels broken. Be warned, though, as this happened to me on both of the non-party modes.
With that said, I would give this an absolute gold rating. Sumo Digital Academy did a great job to develop such a great rendition of this classic. Adding even more fun, replayability, and accessibility to an already great platformer.
Sumo Digital deserves praise in the first place for having an academy dedicated to nurturing talent in this industry. However, the fact that this academy has delivered such an exceptional remaster is a truly stunning feat. It likely benefited from being led by Zool's creator, George Allan. The core game has been tweaked just enough to breathe new life into a slightly dated experience, making it fresh and enjoyable for both fans of the original and the new generation of gamers. The addition of accessibility and speedrun features further enhances the value of an already reasonably priced package.