reviews\ Dec 11, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Zapper - XB - Review

First of all, let me say that this game feels like such a rip-off of the 3D Frogger titles that it’s almost sad.  There’s everything from grid based movement, to going around collecting six certain items to complete the stage, to lots of trial-and-error gameplay.  Let’s look a little deeper, shall we?


The only apparent story in Zapper is what can be gathered from the opening scene.  We find Zapper the cricket and his little brother Zipper sitting down, enjoying some television.  One thing leads to another (well, actually, nothing much happens) and a large bird flies in the window of their little house and kidnaps Zipper.  Zapper, being the kind little cricket he is, feels obligated to die over and over in order to save Zipper’s life.


That’s right, dying over and over.  Heck, you get twenty lives to start off with to get you through each stage.  You’ll constantly find yourself getting killed or falling off ledges.  This is thanks in part to the silly way that Zapper is controlled.  Imagine a top down view, and there’s a large grid laid out over the land.  Zapper can move one square at a time, meaning you have to keep tapping to get him to move.  I recommend using the digital pad over the left thumbstick, if not to conjure up a little nostalgia but also to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.  Tap, tap, tap.  To make matters worse, Zapper can’t rotate via use of the thumbstick or digital pad.  You have to use the left and right triggers to turn Zapper ninety degrees at a time in order to set him up for jumps in narrow spaces.  Things can be become confusing at this point.  In addition to this, pressing the A button will allow Zapper to perform a sort of super jump – one that takes him twice as far as tapping forward does.  But since Zapper’s moving animation are little hops, and the A button performs a sort of hop as well, you’ll find yourself dying accidentally by confusion.


Zapper also has the power to zap things.  How a cricket can control electricity, I don’t know, but you can use this ability to stop some enemies and blast open crates nonetheless.  You’ll also run across spots where more electricity is collected, allowing Zapper to perform a more powerful zap that can blast open tougher crates and destroy tougher enemies.


The level design is very straightforward.  In each level there are six eggs hidden.  Once you find them all, the stage is complete and you can continue on to the next.  Also scattered about are quite a few fireflies.  Collecting them all …well, doesn’t do much, but I guess you have bragging rights if you get them all.  The stages are sometimes made up of puzzles or obstacles that require perfect timing and reflexes to get by.  The puzzles tend to be pretty simple.  In one area, we might need to collect some golden fireflies in a certain order (the one you need to get is lit up).  Once we do this, we’re awarded a little friend who follows us until we reach a certain switch that he’ll turn on for us, then leave.


Some other areas have us timing jumps perfectly in order to land on moving platforms, dodge enemies, or both.  Later on in the game, this can become almost ridiculously hard.  The simple gameplay might appeal to younger gamers, but the game becomes a bit difficult later on, turning off people that might get into it.


We also have a mediocre multiplayer mode to try out.  There are a few game modes, such as ones where you avoid a certain character, or fight to the death using your zapping ability.  They’re rather simplistic and lack depth, so you probably won’t be coming back to them after spending a little while trying them out.


The graphics in the game aren’t bad, but they won’t blow you away.  Textures and character models look fine, but it’s hard to appreciate them if the camera is stuck directly above your head the whole time. Animation is fine, too.  My biggest problem is that the characters lack artistic style; they’re pretty much all generic things.  The characters do have a cartoony look though, one that will probably attract the younger audience.


Sound is nothing special.  Aside from the opening video, we aren’t treated to any other voiceovers.  The sound effects are fine, but aren’t anything special.  The music won’t have you humming along, but it is bearable.  Perhaps a custom soundtrack option would have been a nice feature.


Zapper, overall, isn’t that great of a game.  The straightforward, simplistic gameplay might be good for younger kids, but I don’t know if many will stick it through to the end.  It could be a decent rent, but when Frogger titles can be found in the bargain bin, and are just as good as this, that could be a totally better option.



Gameplay: 4.5

I think the developers forgot to add “fun” to their checklist of things to add to this game.  It’s really not much fun, and doesn’t do much of anything better than some similar titles.


Graphics: 7.0

They work, but they aren’t incredible.  Special effects are totally missing, but animation is okay, and they managed to inject a nice bit of color into the game.  It won’t kill your eyes but you’ll be longing for a little more.


Sound: 7.0

Zapper sports decent sound.  It’s certainly nothing memorable, but at least there aren’t any annoying voiceovers to deal with. 


Difficulty: Medium

Kids could easily be attracted to the game’s cartoony look, but after getting far enough into the game, might give up.  The later levels can be very frustrating at times.


Concept: 3.0

Can you say Frogger rip-off?  Seriously, this game feels like Frogger, just not as fun as either of his 3D titles or the original.


Multiplayer: 6.0

The multiplayer modes feel like an afterthought, but it could possibly keep you entertained for a few minutes.


Overall: 5.4

If you’re thinking of picking this up, I advise renting first.  Frogger and Frogger 2: Swampy’s Revenge are fine games that were ripped off by this title, and those two can be found in the bargain bin for pretty cheap.  If you really liked those games though, this might not be a horrible idea.


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