reviews\ Nov 30, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Zapper - GC - Review

OK … usually when I think of crickets, I think of fishing bait since that’s one of my summer activities. Well, Infogrames has changed my thinking in the video game world by creating a character that’s kinda cool, shoots lightning, and has fireflies as friends. Read on …


Zapper puts you in control of Zap, a cricket who lives at home with his baby brother. A rash of thievery has broken out around his home by an eccentric magpie that steals various items from cricket’s homes and replaces them with her eggs … which hatch into more thieving magpies. Well, Maggie (The magpie) has stolen Zap’s younger brother, and it’s up to him to go and collect all of the magpie eggs and rescue his baby bro by going through various stages, zapping enemy bugs and other creepy crawlies with lighting, and rescuing a few friendly fireflies along the way.


Zapper’s gameplay itself is a weird mix of three different games that come to mind up front. The “wicked cricket” hops one space at a time (80’s Frogger) in a sort of a linear “compass direction” moving game trail (PSX Crash Bandicoot), and the stage will rotate itself around in some arching or circular directions even though you keep following a linear path using the same button presses (PSX Pandemonium). Basically, you move the hoppy little insect through various stages ranging from things like a backyard garden to lava infested Aztec ruins or a ghost town through a very narrow pathway littered with obstacles, traps, a few secrets, and a bunch of mean insects like bees, mosquitoes, and slugs. It makes for easy to learn gameplay, but also makes for some repetitive gameplay without much room for exploration.  


Zapper has a few different gameplay modes to choose from up front to help break the monotony a little. Arcade mode, to play each level that you have gone through and see how fast you can collect all 6 eggs on the stage or beat a ghost to the finish … story mode, which has you run Zap through various levels and stages to complete the actual story of the game … and a multiplayer mode which allows you and up to three friends to battle it out in various modes like a deathmatch and a game of “zip ball” where players try and grab Zap’s little brother and throw him through goals for points (Any of you who have younger siblings can probably relate to that to an extent),  just to name a couple.


OK … the big downsides that I found in this game are the overall length and a little bit in the gameplay itself. Zapper probably won’t take too long for you platform experts to run through. On a plus side, the designers included a typical “collection” platformer aspect to the game in which you have to find all of the firefly orbs on each level. Doing so is VERY challenging, especially in later stages, and unlocks bonus rounds. Collecting all orbs on all levels unlocks a bonus level … and for a lot of you will probably make you go back and re-do stages that you had done before. The variety of multiplayer games and arcade modes helps out as well for those of you that have people or siblings who want to play against you a lot … but if you’re like me and playing 99% of the time by yourself, those might not mean too much most of the time.


As for the controls, the camera itself caused some goof ups here and there. Now … since the levels are all extremely linear and will move accordingly without you having to worry about it … the camera stays at a top down view in one position all of the time, and there’s no way to rotate it. It’s not terrible for the most part, but there were times where I couldn’t judge jumping distance too well from where the camera was placed (some ledges require a super jump if they are more than a hop apart) and camera rotation would have helped greatly rather than me falling off the ledge. Also, Zap can fire off a lightning blast from his antennas one space away … and this same issue comes in when judging enemy path, placement (closer … farther away?), or if you are close enough to hit it. Since some enemies will swing weapons or some other various method of killing Zap, this caused some do overs as well along the way.


Graphically, Zapper looks really good in some places, and really cramped in others here and there. The level designs themselves were pretty well done, and enemies or obstacles that can be found are well animated and don’t seem out of place. The lighting effects look fantastic in some places … like dark caves or hidden rooms with no lights. The cramped part comes in due to the fact that the pathway that Zapper travels is very narrow (many times only one row of  tiles to hop on) but there are tons of hazards, enemies, or scenery jammed in which can tend to get a little confusing as you go.


Overall, Zapper will probably cater to you platformer gurus out there. It does provide a little bit of a different layout than your typical Pac Man World or Ty the Tasmanian Tiger game, but the overall length for you single players who are just looking to get to the end of the game may wind up causing a short lived experience. Fans of older 80’s titles like Freeway or Frogger may also find this one to be a good time as well, just due to some similarities in control. Regardless, I would still recommend a rental first … just in case.


Gameplay: 7.0
The controls and the game itself is easy to learn and get into. The linear gameplay and weird camera angle at times can cause a downer for some, but there are enough multiplayer modes, unlockable bonus levels, and an increasing challenge to help give it more depth. The levels are variated, but overall each stage is just kind of the same thing over and over again.


Graphics: 7.4
Graphically, Zapper is well colored and has some great lighting effects. Some stages have cool touches like dinosaur skulls or ghostly gas clouds floating around to help set the atmosphere, and the lighting effects look great. Due to the narrow pathways and linear gameplay, some areas also looked really cramped and can be a little confusing for a moment.


Sound: 7.2
The nature sounds and level noises were done well, and the grumbling, rattling tones of cricket friends posted to give hints or help you out along the way are somewhat comical. The background music is an upbeat techno / jazzy sound, depending on what you are doing, and isn’t bad but is easily forgotten after you walk away.


Difficulty: Medium
The controls are simple to pick up and get used to, but the increasing difficulty of the stages and precise timing needed to get through some of the levels and hazards may cause some frustration, especially in younger gamers.


Concept: 7.3
Great concept and a neat style that breaks away from the typical platformer game. Hopefully they are looking into a sequel addressing some of the issues, although minor, found in this game.


Multiplayer: 7.4

This definitely adds more to the game experience, and the selection of different things to do will cater to just about whatever mood you happen to be in and the small spaces that you play on make for some pretty frantic button pressing action.


Overall: 7.1
This will be a neat addition to the Gamecube library for some of you out there, and they get props from me for doing something a little different than everyone else. Still, I would recommend renting prior to purchasing for a lot of you hardcore platformers out there, but it’s definitely worth a look from those of you searching for something a little different this holiday season.   


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