Last week we looked at the GameCube version of ZooCube and we were very impressed with it. Taking a very simple concept and wrapping it in some of the most addictive gameplay we've seen this year PuzzleKings have certainly given us one of the most addictive and challenging games since Tetris. How does this experience come across on the GBA though with it's smaller screen and lesser capabilities? Let's take a look at Graphic States' conversion of a great puzzle game.
The basic objective of ZooCube is to save the animals. Dr. Buc Ooze has conducted some evil experiments on the world's animals and transformed them into misshapen forms. To reverse Ooze's hideous experiments, the ZooCube was created. A carrier ship, the Ark, was created to transport the animals to safety. You have been assigned to fly the Ark and use the ZooCube to reverse these atrocities and bring the animals back safely to rehabilitate.
Of course this doesn't sound too brilliant and it's the little, additional things that you can do which gives the game its addictiveness. There are smart bombs (activated by pressing the L + R button together) that can destroy all the shapes on the face of the cube, it doesn't save the animals but it can help clear an unwanted stack of shapes should things get too hectic. You can also rotate your stack of shapes both up and down. If two of the same shapes touch whilst stacking then that animal is saved. The trick with rotating your stack is that all stacks rotate at the same time and as the difficulty increases this becomes fiendishly difficult and relies on quick thinking to make sure you don't harm multiple stacks by easing the congestion on one of them. You gain points by saving animals (points are the ultimate measure of your success in ZooCube) and the point totals can be increased in a couple of ways. As a shape floats toward the cube you can accelerate the movement by pressing the A button and this will double the points earned. Another way to increase points is to balance the cube. If you get a shape on each face of the cube you are told the cube is balanced and you get an extra 1,000 points for doing so. There are many, many more ways to increase points as well as bonus items, bomb varieties and additional power ups and other game modifiers that serve to give ZooCube its indescribable appeal.
There are three basic gameplay modes. There is classic mode in which you attempt to collect the animals from the seven seas. Excellent performance in classic mode, will allow access to very lucrative bonus point rounds. To begin with there are only the first three seas available and you have to beat these before more are unlocked. Knock Out sees you with a pre-stacked cube and you have to clear a certain percentage of the animals in order to progress. Knock Out Blind is the same as Knock Out but all the shapes are greyed out.
The game's action takes part over seven seas and each of the seas has a different difficulty setting. All the game asks of you is to control a cube, which is fully rotational, and capture the shapes, which come from different directions but always head toward the cube, onto the face of the cube. When you pair up two of the same shapes the animal will be saved and the shapes will disappear off your cube. Initially, on the first level, this is straight forward as the shapes only come at you one at a time but as the difficulty progresses you can have animal shapes coming at you from all directions. Once you get a stack of more than five shapes on one face of the cube, it's game over.
If you've noticed the screenshots on the right side of this review you'll notice one of the key differences from the GameCube version. Instead of the shapes being animal like in shape and texture the shapes are simply normal, 3 dimensional shapes which when paired off do not show you what animal has been saved. This is a purely an aesthetic point but it does seem strange being called ZooCube when the shapes don't look like animals at all. The gameplay is identical but it would have been nice to see what animal had been saved although to be fair to the developers they have prevented the screen from getting too cluttered which is all important in a GBA title.
Of course the multiplayer options are different to those offered in the GameCube version. The two modes on offer here are 2 Player Co-op and 2 Player VS. The 2 Player Co-op allows you and a friend to collectively gather the animals. There are some grey shapes that appear during the course of the game and these must be swapped with your friend which adds a new twist to the game. The game will only progress to the next level when both players have finished. 2 Player VS is just as it's name implies, a battle to see who can last the longest. Each player has the opportunity to collect goodies that can be use against their opponent which gives this battle of puzzling skills that extra edge.
ZooCube for the GBA, like the GameCube Version, is wonderfully accessible for deaf gamers. There is a tutorial included, not interactive mind you but one of those rolling things where you have to watch and learn. It only lasts for about a minute and thankfully is fully subtitled. In fact there is no verbal comment in the game.
Has this been a successful port to the GBA? In all honesty it is a very good conversion and retains the same gameplay that the GameCube version has. Sure it loses some of it's visual appeal but it makes up for this in it's innovative multiplayer modes. It's a shame that the multiplayer modes require one game pak per player but this is a minor niggle given the overall quality of the game. If you're the kind of person that likes to play something challenging and extremely addictive whilst you're on the move then ZooCube on the GBA is the game for you.
Overall Game Rating: 8.5/10 Despite the graphical inferiority of the GBA when compared to the GameCube the designers have done a tremendous job in converting ZooCube and retaining the same gameplay experience.
Deaf Gamers comment: All information is completely text based. The game is perfect for deaf gamers.