Sunday, February 3, 2013


Welcome to Flashback, where we take a look at games from the past that may have not gotten as much love as they may have deserved. Today we’re going back to 1995 and visiting a little puzzle game called Zoop. Published by Viacom New Media (which has been defunct for over a decade and a half), Zoop was developed for every possible game system available at the time. I think the only consoles it never made it to were the Virtual Boy and the 3DO.

Zoop was a fairly simple puzzle game that had players match a center piece with other pieces within a line from one of the four quadrants of the play field. For example, if the center piece (the firing piece) was blue, you would shoot it at other blue pieces to gain points. If there happen to be more of the same color in a line, the score multiplies for every piece in the line (100, 200, 300, etc.), and if the whole line fills with the exact same color, a large bonus could be had. Colors can be swapped just by hitting another piece on the field, but this can cause mixed colors within the line, which makes eliminating the pieces that much more difficult to do. There were a few power ups to use if you came in contact with them, which help remove pieces when the flow becomes too quick, or if there are just too many mixed pieces within a line. The game ends if one of the pieces happens to cross into the area where your firing piece exists.

Genesis Version
The game’s art design happens to be one of the challenges to playing the game. Every stage that you progress through changes the background to something more visually challenging to compete against the play field. This was a great concept, if the developers actually went all the way with the idea. Unfortunately, after level 10, the background remains the same through each subsequent level. So while having a visual challenge to go up against was a novel idea, the developers only went so far with it.

The game was pretty similar across all systems, at least in core design. For some strange reason, the Sega Genesis version had one less piece in each of the top and bottom areas of the field, which makes that version a bit tougher than the other ones available at the time. The Game Boy version lacked the shapes in favor of shaded blocks, which doesn’t really match the look of the other versions of the game, and while it’s understandable that the Game Boy had severe hardware limitations, I think shapes would have been fine for the play field. The PlayStation version sorely lacks a save feature for scores, which could have made that the superior version to own. Instead, the best version of the game was on the Super Nintendo system. The SNES version had a larger playfield, better music and even better controls (thanks to the default system controller) than the Genesis version, and the game runs quicker and smoother than the disc based versions.

The 16 bit versions are pretty common to find, and are $5 or less on eBay or at a flea market. I found the PS1 version on eBay awhile back for about $10 complete (it’s one of the original longbox cases), but your results may vary if you seek this version of Zoop out. Honestly, without the ability to save scores on a memory card (or the PS3 hard drive), I really wouldn’t recommend the PS1 version. If you go with a 16 bit version, stick with the SNES version, it just feels more complete. The Game Boy version isn’t even worth speaking of, just because it’s so incredibly inferior to the other versions available. There was a Game Gear version, but again, it’s an edition that falls behind its other counterparts. Zoop was also available on the Atari Jaguar (yeah), and the PC.

Game Boy Version
Zoop is a fun puzzle game that, despite being widely released on every console, just didn’t get the proper recognition it deserved. It’s too bad that Viacom left this property just sitting around, because it could be dusted off and be introduced as a casual game for Facebook or a smartphone under the Nickelodeon name (the game’s look matches closely to Viacom’s Nickelodeon name more than any other one of their brands). So if you’re looking for a decent retro puzzler, hunt this one down. It’s worth a few bucks.

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