Zool is a dimension-jumping Ninja with more tricks up his sleeve than Simon Drake. Only he's got lost while leaping from pillar to post (in a metaphysical sense) and now needs a little help to get back. This is where you step in. As everyone must already know, the game is billed as a 'Sonic The Hedgehog Beater'. Having played both, all I can see that Zool has in common with Sonic are the huge sprites, its gaudy use of color, and its incredible speed.
There are seven dimensions to work through, each made up of three enormous levels. Each level is basically a two-dimensional maze, and your task is to locate the exit which, while normally accepted to be the far right of the level, is never quite where you expect it to be. Each level is built up from three component parts: platforms, bonuses, and the enemy. At least, that's it in a wildly underestimated sense, as there are countless different kinds of each. Platforms vary between solid, moving, collapsible, deadly spike or obstacle-coated ones. Bonuses can also be anything from small pieces of fruit which top up your score, to magical bonuses which arm our ant-like hero with assorted magical capabilities.
Each level features an individual set of monsters and bonuses, as well as world-specific elements which either help or hinder. In Music World, for instance, there's a giant piano keyboard which tinkles away for bonus points when it is run across. In addition, in Fruit World, open baked bean cans serve as handy springboards, whereas in Tool World, drill bits can be used as sturdy platforms, provided they're not spinning at the time, otherwise you're likely to lose a leg.
Zool himself is probably the most amazing character ever to grace an Amiga monitor. He may look sweet, but underneath that innocent exterior lies the heart of a killing machine, and an extremely capable one at that. Zool can pull off so many different moves that you'd think the controls would involve serious amounts of physical dexterity. For example, from a standing start, he can jump, run, punch, perform a spinning kick, or send enemies flying with a mean sliding tackle. He can also cling onto vertical walls and perform four different magic spells. It may sound like a lot for a platform game, but the numbers and speed of the enemy make every move vital, and they actually prove very instinctive to use.
All the moves are accessed via the joystick, and, complicated though it may initially seem, they can be mastered with a little practice. The two most powerful moves you have at your disposal other than your magic cannon (which should only be used rarely due to its limited resources) are the spinning jump and the sliding kick. The spinning leap, performed by depressing the fire button while Zool is airborne, causes a blade to extend from either side of him to kill anything he touches. Equally powerful is the sliding tackle which makes any creatures, it comes across lose their footing and fall into oblivion.
Zool's magic extends way beyond mere smart bombs, although one of the four spells he can perform is a firework to clear the screen of bad guys. On top of this, he can also cast three temporary spells. The first lets him jump higher than normal. Whilst another offers temporary invincibility. Most impressively, though, you can also call in some extra firepower in the form of Zool - The Ninja Of The Nth Dimension. Hang on, there can't be two of them, can there? Well, yes, but only for a short while. This duplicate of our hero mirrors the moves you make exactly and effectively doubles your firepower. The spells are cycled with the space bar and selected by holding down the fire button, which causes the dome-topped one to kneel for a moment ad a rocket to fly upwards before exploding into action.
SPELL IT OUT
Each spell has a limited amount of uses, which can be extended by collecting the bonuses hidden around the levels, and believe me, they can be anywhere --from hidden rooms to within key enemies.
The basis of Zool is fun, and everything about the game shows that. From the zany - and that isn't a word I use lightly - soundtrack, which is full of light-hearted and unnecessary samples of snoring, cocks crowing and breaking glass, to Zool's rich and humorous personality. It's amazing how much feeling you can get from a small bunch of sticks held together by a large, blinking black rugby ball.
Zool is one of the most playable games ever released - mind you, that's hardly surprising when you consider that the team behind Venus The Flytrap and Switchblade II are the coders of the project. In fact, the game is so playable you wonder why all games aren't this good.
Admittedly, the controls take a little getting used to - although you can survive simply by mastering the basic run and jumping skills - but it's incredible how instinctive they become after a little time, and you find yourself fully in control of one of the most versatile characters this side of a Magnetic Scrolls adventure. I can't say it really beats Sonic outright and the The Addams Family is slightly more polished in appearance and control. However, it is definitely one of the best platform games released on the Amiga, and you'd be absolutely out of your tree to miss it.
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