It’s fast! It’s wacky! It’s ZooCube!
I loved ZooCube during my brief playtime at E3, so I’ve been anxious to sit down for a long time and really dig in deep with it. It’s taken longer than I wanted due to various reasons, but now I’ve finally got ZooCube, and it’s a blast.
The game’s controls have a certain learning curve you’ll have to overcome right off the bat. I was lucky to learn some of the useful tricks at E3, but most people will have to use a little trial and error before they get used to it. Basically, you can rotate the cube along one horizontal axis with the Control Stick, the other horizontal axis with the C-Stick, and around the vertical axis with either stick. You could feasibly play with only one stick, but many moves would take much more time and effort to accomplish, so it’s in your best interest to get used to the dual-stick setup right off the bat. I actually think it’s very neat, and the game starts off slow enough that you can progress while still learning the system.
I could try to explain the gameplay, but it’s so hard to visualize, an explanation probably wouldn’t help. Suffice it to say that the concept is very novel, and true to the game’s marketing, you really do have to think and play in three dimensions, moreso than in any other puzzle game I’ve played. As I keep playing more, I can feel myself start to open up and adopt the proper 3D perspective needed to do really well in ZooCube. It’s a pretty cool feeling, and I’m sure that slow progression is part of the game’s design.
One surprising aspect of ZooCube is just how complex it is. Most puzzle games keep things relatively simple and just speed up the action as you get further. ZooCube adds new pieces, new power-ups, new strategies, and then...pieces start coming in from new directions. Whoa. Suddenly you’ve got to add yet another dimension to your thinking. All this makes ZooCube a pretty tough game, but it’s very motivating to keep playing and get better, if only to see what crazy new challenge will be thrown at you.
ZooCube’s visual style is something to behold. Basically you’re trying to rescue all these animals that have been mutated into strange shapes. Not only are the shapes themselves oddly funny at times, but when each animal is released, its head floats to the top of the screen, makes some distinctive roar or chirp, and runs through an animation. You don’t have much time to appreciate all this during gameplay, but there’s a section of the options menu where you can go through and watch them all zoomed in...and lemme tell you, they’re hilarious. As with most puzzle games, the story doesn’t have a lot of bearing on how you play, but ZooCube tries its best to endear you to these animals. Plus, it’s worth your while to become familiar with the animals and their shapes, because many shapes look similar, and you’ll need to distinguish among them quickly during gameplay.
The backgrounds are a whole different subject. They’re actually quite pretty and peaceful, but there doesn’t seem to be much going on while you play. Pay close attention while a friend is playing though, and you’ll notice a ton of little things happening in the background...ocean tides rising or falling, houses emerging from the ground, lights turning on and off. The tiny animations are pretty cool and probably too subtle. I wouldn’t want them distracting me while playing, but I honestly didn’t realize the background wasn’t pre-rendered until several hours after getting the game. As for audio, the music is quite well done, with most songs being quite soothing, and an occasional drum beat coming in to increase the tension for a minute. The only notable sound effects are the animal sounds, which are diverse and add a nice little audio satisfaction to making a successful match.
So far I’m having a great time with ZooCube and would recommend it to any puzzle game fan. Check back soon for a full review.