There is no Dana…
Every console during the bit wars of the late-’80s/early-’90s had to have their big mascot platformer. They needed their own Super Mario Bros. Sega got theirs in 1991 with Sonic the Hedgehog after Alex Kidd didn’t quite stack up. NEC had Bonk’s Adventure. 3DO and Atari had essentially no answer to it, but few people fondly remember the Interactive Multiplayer or Jaguar. This eventually bled its way onto home computers, which it didn’t have to because we got you that computer so you could study, Bobby, not play your danged Nintendo games on it.
People claimed Commander Keen had finally brought console-style platformers to DOS with its smooth scrolling. Then when the Amiga hit, it took until 1992 before it got Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension. Take that console fans, team Amiga finally has a platformer to make you jealous and… Oh. No, the next year it landed on DOS followed by essentially every other platform on the market.
That was short-lived, but it’s often remembered to be an Amiga classic. As such, Sumo Digital Academy has gone to work gussying that version up for a re-release: Zool Redimensioned.
Zool Redimensioned (PC)
Developer: Sumo Digital Academy
Publisher: Secret Mode
Released: August 18, 2021
The titular character, Zool, is a gremlin Ninja who must… I’m not entirely sure. He goes to Earth and has to maybe defeat bosses to become a better Ninja. Or perhaps it’s to save the multi-verse from Krool, his rival.
Note that, while Zool Redimensioned is based on the Amiga version, it is not quite that. The graphics have been redone, allowing the game to play at a higher resolution. They’re a reasonable facsimile to the original, but I think purists are going to be put off. It’s also not based on the Amiga CD32 version, which featured animated cutscenes, but in terms of gameplay, it has all the goodies. It tries to stay true to the original version, while bringing it up to modern standards. Sort of.
There are two difficulty modes: Redimensioned and Ultimate Ninja. I was interested in the Redimensioned mode, but then it told me in the description that it’s for first-timers. Have you seen my credentials? I’m no first-timer. I’m like that evil kid from The Wizard: so bad. Also pretentious.
It’s a good thing that I chose that difficulty because I still found Zool Redimensioned to be rather easy. When I finished the end boss, I had a stockpile of 18 lives and hadn’t seen a game over screen. Part of this is because the camera is so zoomed out. Zool is fast on his feet, so with a greater view, it’s easier to avoid slamming into things.
If you don’t have calloused, muscular gamer fingers like me, there are further accessibility options including turbo-fire, invincibility, and infinite jumps.
You have the same seven worlds with four levels apiece to get through. There’s also a number of secret mini-games hidden throughout. It only took me about two and a half hours to topple, but there are added challenges to get through if you feel like that isn’t enough. They also included an emulated Genesis/Mega Drive version just because. I’m not sure why that port, in particular, was picked. I suppose they had to remove the Chupa Chups logo and that seemed like the best option. Maybe.
Despite the ease I had getting through the game, I did really enjoy it. It’s fast, it’s simple, and the level design is entertaining. The goal is to gather enough collectibles in each level and then find the exit. Usually, the exit is on the far right of the stage, but you’re often required to navigate through various paths to actually get to it. There are three big collectible objects in each level to find, but they’re not necessary for progress. Actually, if you’re playing in “Redimensioned” difficulty, the collectibles aren’t necessary at all.
As is required by law, each world is capped off with a boss. These range from generic platformer baddies to absolute nightmare fuel. Why does the banana bleed when you shoot it? They’re not bad, as far as bosses go, and when I did drop a life it was usually on one of them. Some of them throw curveballs that can catch you off guard, but I don’t think there are any that will bake your noodle.
On that note, the game ends on a tremendous anti-climax. Not only is the last world rather mundane and completely in line with the previous worlds, but the end boss isn’t very intimidating. Zool Redimensioned just runs its course and ends, basically.
Zool Redimensioned isn’t really anything special, but it’s good retro platforming fun. It wasn’t Sonic and it wasn’t Mario. That is probably why it isn’t well-remembered on the other platforms it came out on. I will say it’s better than Jazz Jackrabbit, which would read nicely on the back of the box next to all the Sonic-killer quotes from 1992.
The port is also quite nice, but it’s going to be an affront to purists. The modern upgrades change the feel of the game immensely, and while I’d argue it’s for the best, it’s also at the expense of the challenge. It’s a short, breezy experience. A comfortable slice of ‘90s platforming. It’s up to you if that’s what you need right now, but I certainly enjoyed it.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]