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ZooCube (Game Boy Advance) artwork

ZooCube (Game Boy Advance) review


"We all enjoy superproductions, with state-of-the-art graphics and 60-instrument orchestra soundtracks and gameplay as deep and complex as a team of a bajillion developers allows, but when it comes down to it it takes surprisingly little to make a masterpiece out of a videogame. ZooCube proves that. "



We all enjoy superproductions, with state-of-the-art graphics and 60-instrument orchestra soundtracks and gameplay as deep and complex as a team of a bajillion developers allows, but when it comes down to it it takes surprisingly little to make a masterpiece out of a videogame. ZooCube proves that.

The structure of the puzzle probably couldn’t be any simpler. You control a cube fixed on the centre of the screen. Periodically, objects of different shapes and colours will drop onto one of the faces of the cube from three different directions. Your mission is to rotate the cube so that a red triangle, for instance, falls onto another red triangle. If you match objects, they disappear. Otherwise, they pile one onto another until you have five different objects on one given face of the cube, which is when you lose.

Thankfully, the isometric view allows us to clearly see what objects are in all six faces of the cube, without having to switch camera modes or doing anything. This is important, because as the game progresses you’ll need to very familiar with your cube and how to rotate it. The moment you see a blue star waltzing into the screen, you’ll need to know exactly where you put the other blue star a few minutes ago. If this is your first star and you can’t match it with anything, then you’ll have to think carefully all the same: where will you put it until a match arrives? You could put it on top of the green ball to get a powerup, but that’ll make a tower of three objects and that might get difficult to handle…

And that’s it. A dozen types of shapes will fall on the six faces of a cube from three different directions. It sounds simple, and to tell the truth it really is, but ‘simple’ doesn’t mean ‘easy’. ZooCube, as a matter of fact, can become excruciatingly difficult as you progress. There will be a wider array of shapes, which obviously will make matches more scarce, and they will fall faster, so you will have to develop serious juggling skills until you consider applying to work in the Cirque du Soleil. The game actually gives a bonus called “Juggle!” as a reward for particularly skillful manoeuvres. But apart from manual skill, you’ll also need an excellent three-dimensional vision to realise exactly where everything is (it’s easier said than done!).

However, if this type of gameplay ends up boring you, you can switch to the “KO Mode”, a slightly different premise for what is basically still the same game. Here, in each level you start with a number of shapes already on your cube, and the shapes that will drop from the screen will match, one by one, all the ones on the cube. Thus, if you make all your moves correctly, you’ll end up with a perfectly empty cube, and that’s the aim of this mode. The next level will have more shapes you have to juggle, and so on. This makes for a surprisingly new experience, although as I said the game is only marginally different; I found myself playing this mode much more often than the main one.

This puzzle system is so original, entertaining, challenging and addictive that ZooCube can afford not to offer anything else. The levels themselves don’t have any music, so there’s only a handful of songs in the cartridge. Sound effects are few and mostly irrelevant, as the game can be played in complete silence without problems. Although the background image moves and changes from time to time, it’s always the surface of a sea reflecting the sky.

So, with strictly functional graphics and a soundtrack that maybe isn’t even there, ZooCube is a veritable gameplay powerhouse that will break you and dominate you with sheer puzzle addiction, just when we thought that ideas for puzzles had finally ran out. It can be a pastime played five minutes a day for months before becoming boring, or if you wish it to, it can be a real challenge that will have you on the edge of your seat until your sanity gets eroded away and you end up mentally rotating everything you see.

Rating: 10/10

MartinG's avatar
Community review by MartinG (August 29, 2007)

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