Beauty can sometimes hide evil and
challenge. And imaginary lands can be more colorful than reality.
Take the world of Zanzarah for
example. It is colorful and bright, and in sharp contrast to the dreary
sepia-toned visage rendered of London. Of course, that is intended in Zanzarah:
The Hidden Portal, a Xicat Interactive release for the PC.
First, this is a game that is targeted
for teen-age girls. However, the beauty and challenge of the lands may well
attract other gamers as well.
Having no manual for outline to
strategy was a bit daunting, but nonetheless the privilege of previewing the
The game centers around a teen-age
girl named Amy. One day, while her mom is out and she is left alone in the
house, she hears a noise and follows it to the attic where she finds a
mysterious box. Inside is a rune that transports her to a magic land, filled
with pixies creating chaos, wild fairies running amok, owls that talk and give
counsel, elves and a wonderful assortment of creatures.
The land of Zanzarah is in trouble and
it was prophesized long before that a hero would come to the land to save it. It
would appear that the hero, as a matter of course, is Amy.
But before she can begin her journey
through the lands, she must accomplish a few simple tasks: getting and training
a fairy is the first thing she must do. But in order to train, you will need
spells for your fairy to use. You can buy them at the local shop with fairy
coins, but you need to clear the pixie out of the store in order to purchase
anything. You do that by using a pixie bag, which you can get from another elf,
but only if you can get to his place. The only way to get there is through the
garden, which is full of fairies looking for a fight. Lose the fight and you
will repeat the level from the entry point.
Ah, a puzzle. No spells equal no
firepower in the arcade fight, opening you up to defeat unless you run away.
“We didn’t have an instruction book so
it was hard to figure out how to fight with the fairy,” said Jessica, age 14.
“The fighting is hard because you have to fly and shoot, like you are in one of
the war air combat games my dad has.”
The flight combat is controlled
through keyboard arrow keys (for movement), the left mouse key for free look and
direction, and the right mouse button to flap the wings and elevate.
“Graphically, it’s pretty,” Jessica
said. “You can really see the details, but the house in London is not as
detailed as the forest. Amy can go back to her home in London, but there doesn’t
seem much reason for her to do that. The music is really pretty.”
This is an amazing looking game
graphically. The details in the water when you trudge through a stream, or even
Amy tripping slightly over plants in the bushes if she tries to go across the
landscape rather than follow the path, are extremely well done.
The game does sport some arcade style
power-ups along the way – potions and coins that float in the air waiting for
Amy to walk through them to collect them.
Other features include the third
person perspective, a variety of spells, a multiplayer deathmatch via LAN for up
to 10 players, and more than 80 hours of single-player gameplay.
Xicat research has found that 62
percent of new game players are female but only 8 percent of all new games have
a female character in the lead role. It is hoping that Zanzarah will have a
built-in audience waiting for its November 12th release. However, this is a game
that should appeal to anyone looking for a fantasy adventure with challenging
combat, a variety of puzzles and amazing imagery.