Review – Zool Redimensioned
The success of Sonic the Hedgehog in the early 90’s made every single developer and publisher in this known universe try to create a mascot platformer to compete with the blue blur and that chubby Italian plumber. Some of them succeeded, but a ton of them ended up becoming the laughing stock of the industry, like Bubsy and Awesome Possum. Others managed to have just a little bit of success among a certain niche of players back in the day, only to disappear altogether a few years later. One of the main examples in this particular case is the Zool franchise.
Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension was originally developed and released for the Amiga by Gremlin Graphics back in 1992. It was a traditional platformer more than obviously inspired by Sonic’s first few games, but with an alien goblin ninja (or whatever the hell the titular Zool character was supposed to be) as the protagonist. You would explore short levels with somewhat generic backgrounds (“candy” theme, “music” theme, etc), collecting items and big macguffins, as well as defeat a boss every now and then. I haven’t played the Amiga original, but I have played both the SNES and Mega Drive ports in the past. They… weren’t good.
This hasn’t stopped Sumo Digital Academy and Secret Mode from bringing this series back from the dead. Zool Redimensioned is a remaster of the original game that borders on being a full-fledged remake, given how well the developers have managed to update what was once an average-at-best platformer filled with control and design issues into a pretty solid indie title that plays, looks and sounds well, even for 2021 standards. A remaster of an underwhelming game that has finally allowed it to shine for the first time in almost thirty years, so to speak.
The developers made sure to include a perfect emulation of the Mega Drive version of the game in order for us to actually assess the myriad of improvements over the 90’s versions of Ninja of the Nth Dimension. I don’t get why the Meda Drive version was the one they decided to include in this package, because dear lord, this is not a good game. Its soundtrack is terrible, its controls are clunky, its aspect ratio is underwhelming, and its visuals aren’t good at all. I don’t know anything about Amiga emulation, but that should have been the version included as a bonus in Zool Redimensioned. Thankfully, the base remastered game more than makes up for how terrible this “classic” version is.
Thanks to some better visuals, an increased resolution, and a revamped control scheme, we can now actually appreciate the quality of Zool‘s level design. They are a bit more open ended than your traditional platformer, clearly taking inspiration from Sonic’s exploration-based level design, albeit much smaller in size. The titular Zool is a nimble protagonist, but he is no speedster. He can move at a nice pace, perform a double jump, spin in mid-air in order to extend his jumping distance, and shoot some bright gems (or whatever they are supposed to be) at enemies. He can climb onto walls and grab onto railings as well, those being the only instances in which his ninja skills are actually used.
None of the levels are long or even remotely difficult, therefore they never outstay their welcome. I am pretty sure that any difficulties players faced when playing Zool back in the day were a consequence of dated hardware limitations, as being able to see what’s ahead of you with more precision, as well as being able to properly identify hidden paths and items with precision makes Zool Redimensioned a breeze to play. Sure, bosses are tricky, but all in all, I found this game to be quite relaxing at times. The improved visuals and much more pleasant soundtrack also contributed to this verdict.
That doesn’t mean that Zool Redimensioned is perfect. I still don’t like that the level backgrounds only change every four courses. The game is still ridiculously short, and considering how easier it is when compared to its predecessor, you can breeze through it in one, maybe two sittings. Finally, not only is the emulated Mega Drive port really bad to play, but there is actually no way to close it without pressing Alt+Tab, since there is no “quit” function in it. I cannot stress enough, don’t waste your time with this smaller port. I like the fact it is there, but it’s not worth the hassle.
We need more games like Zool Redimensioned. The original wasn’t exactly that great and was quickly forgotten during the mascot platfomer craze of the early 90’s, but thanks to this pretty robust remaster, what was once a somewhat niche and clunky game has turned into a solid (albeit still flawed) platformer that doesn’t feel out of place, nor inferior to most indie releases out there. Just make sure to avoid the emulated original included as a bonus.
Zool Redimensioned‘s remastered graphics look as good as any other high-quality pixel-based indie platformer out there. The Mega Drive version looks good for its time, despite the small resolution.
Zool doesn’t have a lot of moves at his disposal and some of them feel quite superfluous. That being said, the controls themselves are much better than the ones featured in the 90’s original.
Not the most extensive soundtrack, but the handful of tunes included in Zool Redimensioned are actually way catchier than I could have anticipated.
Fun Factor: 7.0
The original Mega Drive ROM included in this collection is pretty bad, but the brand new remastered version is pretty entertaining, even though it’s a bit too easy and too short.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Zool Redimensioned is available now on PC.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Zool Redimensioned was provided by the publisher.