Zool Redimensioned (PS4/PS5) Review – Students of the Game

    Title: Zool Redimensioned
    Developer: Sumo Digital Academy
    Release Date: May 16, 2023
    Reviewed On: PS5
    Publisher: Secret Mode
    Genre: Platformer

The Nineties were all about the ‘Tude, and it all started with Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991. Everyone else wanted to be just as cool, and the number of mascot platformers that tried to match Sonic’s vibe included the likes of Awesome Possum, Rocket Knight, Aero the Acrobat, Mr. Nutz, Pulseman, and… well, you get the idea.

Among them was a gremlin ninja named Zool, who managed to score a pair of games that were reasonably popular on a little British home computer system called the Amiga. There were ports on other platforms too, but Zool was no doubt a dime a dozen in an era when everyone wanted to replicate Sonic or Mario. Now, with the ’90s being cool again, a lot of these pretenders suddenly have a new audience and are warmly welcomed by gamers both old and new. Just as long as it’s not a new Bubsy video game. Yeah, no thanks.

Zool Redimensioned is a remastered remake of the original 1992 release, but it’s a lot more than what it seems. It completely reimagines the original game and makes it far more playable and enjoyable than ever. To make the comparison easier, the release comes with the original SEGA Genesis version of Zool, and by now, the original source material feels quite dated, especially when compared to the new game and all of its quality-of-life improvements.

The most amazing thing about this release is that it’s quite literally a student project. Both the original Steam release from 2021 and the latest PlayStation ports were student projects. This was intended to provide aspiring game developers with valuable work experience, all under the guidance and supervision of the original Zool creators. The end result truly feels like a labor of love, uniting the vision of the original creators with the fresh interpretation of a new generation of game developers. This might just be the most wholesome game development story of the modern era.

Zool Redimensioned 1

Zool Redimensioned has over 28 bite-sized levels spread across distinctly themed worlds, punctuating with traditional boss battles. The game design is simple and effective, as the main objective is to reach the end of the stage as quickly as possible, all while grabbing as many collectible items as possible along the way. The simple design brings together the best of speed running and score attack into a platforming experience that’s easy to get into and satisfying to master.

The gremlin ninja may have once felt a little insecure about being compared to Sonic, but it now appears as if the little guy has finally found his own identity. He’s fast but also versatile, thanks to his double jump and spin attack. He’s also able to scale walls and ceilings with ease, which lends nicely to the level design. Although he’s able to damage enemies with his spin attack and also by straight-up jumping on them Mario-style, his primary offense is a rapid-fire projectile which is almost akin to Mega Man’s default canon. And so, in a way, Zool Redimensioned feels like a cross between Sonic the Hedgehog and Jazz the Jackrabbit, and it’s a fun combination.

Zool Redimensioned 2

The modern interpretation fares a lot better than the original game. The biggest improvement is in the level presentation, where the camera is zoomed out, which makes it so much easier to navigate the intricate level design. There are checkpoints and power-ups too, and the enemy placement is a lot more logical and cleaner compared to the congested cluster of the 1992 game. It’s not often that a modern interpretation improves upon the original, so these students deserve an A+ and more for what they’ve achieved here.

The visual style is kept faithful to the original pixel art, but everything looks clean and crisp, making the action easy to follow. The music is one of the best parts of the presentation, as the soundtrack serves a generous helping of chiptune bass. It’s a lovingly crafted package, allowing players to experience the new game, the original classic, and also some extra local multiplayer mini-games for good measure.

Zool Redimensioned 3

Zool Redimensioned takes a classic game and makes it so much better. It’s an easy recommendation for platforming fans, even with so many other great games available in the genre. Sure, it carries some baggage from a bygone era where far too many games were trying to be Sonic, but this new release gives some measure of identity to a cult classic. Whether you’re a fan from the old days or simply after a well-designed platformer, Zool Redimensioned is quite literally the student textbook on genre fundamentals.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jahanzeb Khan

Old SEGA games will go up in value... you'll see!