Nalin Sharma of Puzzlekings says that when they were working on the Zoocube project his main goal was to create a game that would let people say “Hey, I’ve never seen a game like this before”. According to him, that’s something you don’t hear very often these days (and I have to go with him on that one). He also states that they wanted to capture the classic arcade feeling of intense but simple, yet fun, gameplay.
I do recall saying to myself “What do we have here?” when I first held the Zoocube box in my hand. And I also remember raising my eyebrows and thinking “Really, WHAT do we have here?” when I was checking out the demo of the game. I’ll tell you what we have here: a surprisingly good 3D puzzle game.
You play the role of a skipper who is supposed to save animals from the hands of evil Dr. Buc Ooze. For some reason he finds entertainment in changing animals into certain shapes. You have to stop him and change the animals back into their natural forms and return them to the ArkHive so that their species can be saved. As far as the story goes, we can say that well.. it doesn’t go anywhere and it doesn’t have to. Not for this kind of game anyway.
The process of changing the shapes back into animals happens by stacking the animal-shapes on a Zoocube. A zoocube is a device that let’s you turn animal-shapes back into animals. You have a complete 360° degree control over your cube as you can turn it in any direction you want, to receive an animal shape.
The shapes come from different directions toward the cube and “fall” onto it. When 2 animal-shapes of the same kind make contact, they turn into the original animal.
It sounds easy, which it is. More correctly: it’s easy to grasp (a bit like tetris) but it can get damn hard to play when you advance trough the levels. The speed increases and so do the directions from which the animal-shapes fly toward your cube.
There are also different modes of play (including an up to 4 player co-op or vs. game) like blind (after landing on the cube the shapes lose color, making it harder for you) and KO (where you have to clear a cube which has a number of randomly stacked creatures on it).
All this happens in a handfull of different backgrounds over the entire planet Earth. The surroundings are well done and don’t bother the gameplay, by their sobriety and simple animations. There isn’t much to tell about the graphics actually. Again, not for this kind of game anyway.
What bothered me was the unfinished feeling the game interface had: imagine playing a 2 player game, and after finishing a battle the game just returns to the main screen. No scores, no “rematch?” option, nothing, nada. Maybe the developers thought that that wasn’t important for a game like this either
If you like puzzles and if you like fast paced games, give Zoocube a try.