Zool is back: Redimensioned and reappraised

The gaming world was recently treated to a remake that nobody really asked for – out of nowhere, Secret Mode and the Sumo Digital Academy announced the imminent arrival of Zool Redimensioned for PC, and before anyone could say “Whatever happened to Ninjabread Man?”, the game was released on Steam in August.

The elder folk amongst you may remember Ninja from the Nth Dimension as one of many mascot platformers arriving in the wake of a certain blue hedgehog, given birth to on the Amiga. He was fast, he had to collect a lot of things, and he had a great love of Chupa Chups. And he was brash – one magazine was bold enough to lead with a cover of Zool punching Sonic’s lights out, telling him to move over and make way for Gremlin’s new mascot. Before this new game, Zool was last seen in Zool 2, released in 1993.

When Redimensioned was announced, most people wondered why such a thing existed – people remembered Zool, but they didn’t necessarily like it. The game was pretty and had character, but also very flawed, much like a lot of Euro platformers – you had to collect too much rubbish, controls were fiddly, and it could be quite unfair. But as it turns out, Zool Redimensioned is a little triumph – the alien is back in a platformer that takes the original game and makes it exciting, and quite modern. Undeniably a lot of this has to do with fixing a great deal of the original game’s issues – collection is much more forgiving, the controls are superior, and most importantly, the camera is zoomed out so the game can handle Zool’s speed. There is an old-school mode for those who want a bit more of the original’s bite, but either way, Zool’s return is a welcome one, even if it comes as quite a surprise.

With this in mind, is it potentially worth looking past the more obvious successes from the olden days and reviving games and IPs that are…well, perhaps a little rougher but could shine with some fixing? Something that may not have succeeded originally, but had intriguing aspects and doesn’t need to be treated with a certain degree of reverence? Zool Redimensioned makes a case for such a revival, as does Sega’s recent Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX. On the other hand, the return of Bubsy the Bobcat a few years back was seen by many as a bridge too far. But even if irritating and overly talkative felines should probably stay in the past, there are certainly some games out there with very interesting concepts and stories that didn’t stick the landing first time out but may well deserve a second chance. Could we see the return of Chakan: The Forever Man, or Greendog, or even Earnest Evans? Who knows. Some may rightly ask who on earth would be interested in such a thing, but a good game is a good game – even if it is a hard sell.

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