Reviewed: June 16, 2002
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
Quality games for the GameCube are pretty few and far between; even 8 months after the system’s release. One of the better games at launch was Super Monkey Ball that treated gamers to some clever puzzle action and became one of the first must-have titles for the GameCube.
In a bold attempt to reinvent the puzzle genre PuzzleKings and Coyote have joined forces to create ZooCube, the next big puzzle title for the GameCube, or at least they hope. While they have created a truly unique gaming experience that is nothing like you have ever seen or played before, the sheer novelty of this game could be its undoing.
ZooCube sports these features:
Feel free to browse the gallery if you cannot fathom what this game might look like. The basic gameplay is a cryptic blend of Tetris and Rubik’s Cube that includes just enough storyline to connect the various levels, but in the end you have to ask yourself if a story is even needed to play such a game.
Using a six-sided cube, you try to connect various animal parts to recreate the original animals. There are various techniques and power-ups you can use along the way to make this easier, but the game is overall quite challenging and only gets tougher.
Using a technique called “balancing” you can assign each side of the cube an animal shape, or multiple shapes if you are feeling lucky. Power-ups appear as you try to bring these creatures back to their original form, and each animal also contains a special item you can collect when two animals collide. If things get too confusing you can use a rocket power-up to blast your cube and clear all the animal parts.
As the cube spins you need to see what shapes are approaching and try to cycle through the various shapes stacked on each side of the cube so they are on the outside when they contact their matching counterpart. It all sounds confusing when reading about it, but once you pick up the controller you will either “catch on” or be “turned off” within the first few levels.
ZooCube suffers from some lengthy load times between levels and an initial load time that almost gives you enough time to read the manual…yes that’s stretching it but it’s very long nonetheless. The various modes break up the monotony by giving you some unique challenges. The tutorial is a great place to get started and gives you enough information to begin the game and learn from there.
The Classic mode is the main game then they vary on that them by removing textures and color for a Blind mode and then there is a Knockout version of both of these that pre-stacks your cube with shapes and you must match and remove them.
Those four controller ports are put to good use with support for up to four players in either cooperative or versus modes. Again, these are just variations of the single player modes where you can work as a team or against each other by sending “blockers” over to your opponent and try to mess up their matches.
ZooCube is also available on the Game Boy Advance and would have been an ideal candidate for some multi-format gaming, but alas, there is no connect options for the GBA so potential zoo keepers will have to pick their format and live with that decision.
There isn’t anything all that impressive about the visuals in ZooCube. The overall art design is pretty simple and actually quite boring for a next-gen system such as the GameCube. The menus and interface are bland with ugly fonts, the movies are short and low quality, and the overall game design is just plain poor.
The 3D backgrounds are nicely rendered but with hardly any animation to speak of they often appear very static and boring. The lighting and shadows will change as the sun rises and falls in an attempt to create the passage of time, but the effect is all but lost as you are always focused on the cube.
The cube and the various animal pieces are in fact the only things being rendered in real-time, causing them to stand out in visual clarity over the backgrounds. This is definitely not a game to show your friends when bragging about the visual power of the GameCube.
The music is good and varies with each level, but like the graphics, does not do the system justice. The sound effects are simplistic with unique noises appropriate for the various animals. They are about as original as the old Fisher-Price “See ’N Say”; you know the old toy with the dial and the animal pictures; “A cow says moo…”
ZooCube has plenty of gameplay to offer assuming you like the game to begin with. There is a lot to do in the solo game and even more fun awaits when you team up with 2-3 more friends.
ZooCube has several claims to fame including being the first 3D puzzle game on the GameCube. While this may be true, the use of 3D is more of a novelty than a necessity and I believe this game is going to have a very limited appeal with a very narrow group of gamers. It’s original, but in some ways “too original” and could very well scare off potential puzzle solvers who feel more at home with traditional games like Tetris.
If after reading this you still think you might be interested in ZooCube then by all means rent this title and see if it meets with your expectations. Reviews and even the description and art on the box cannot begin to describe the ZooCube experience.