Playstation Cover art
Electric Spectacle Productions (Jaguar)
|Publisher(s)||Viacom New Media|
|Designer(s)||Peter Tattersall, Jason McGann|
|Composer(s)||Bob Scumaci, Mark Davis|
|Platform(s)||Super NES, Genesis, Game Boy, Game Gear, MS-DOS, Sega Saturn, Atari Jaguar, PlayStation|
Zoop is a puzzle game developed by Hookstone Productions and published by Viacom New Media. Some of its rules resemble those of the arcade game Plotting (known in some territories as Flipull), but unlike Plotting, Zoop runs in real time. Official Zoop games have been released for Game Boy, Game Gear, Mega Drive/Genesis, Super NES, Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn (in Japan only), PlayStation, MS-DOS, and Macintosh.
Zoop was one of four games played in the Blockbuster World Video Game Championship semi-finals on August 21, 1995, a rare instance of an as-yet-unreleased game being used in the competition. To spark interest for the game, Blockbuster offered the game as a free rental for the Super NES for a limited time.
The player controls a triangle in the center of the screen. Every second (or more often in advanced levels), a piece comes in from the side and possibly pushes other pieces forward. Two consecutive pieces will never come in from the same quadrant, and runs of consecutive identical pieces on one row are longer, statistically, than one might think. If a piece falls into the center square, the game is over.
If the player shoots a piece of the same color as their triangle, it will be "zooped" (cleared) by the Zoop Master 50 Cal, and points are earned. If the piece behind the target piece is also of the same color, it is also "zooped". The same goes for the next piece, and so on. If a piece of a color different from the player's current piece is shot, the player's piece will switch colors with it. This is also what happens when a piece of a different color is encountered after zooping one or more pieces of the same color.
When the quota of "zooped" pieces is met, the game speeds up, and (before level 10) the background changes.
Various special pieces do different things:
- A proximity bomb (shaped like a lightning bolt) blows up pieces in a 3×3 area centered at the target piece.
- A line bomb (often shaped like a gear) clears a whole target line of pieces.
- A color bomb (often shaped like a paint splotch) clears all the pieces in a quadrant that match the target piece.
- Collect five spring pieces to clear the whole screen.
- If a piece is pushed right next to the center square, it immediately disappears. In this way, the player may not lose because of a powerup entering the middle square.
Generally speaking, every cleared piece is worth 100 points. In the case of zooping more than one piece at once, each piece is worth 100 points more than the piece before it. For example, zooping 3 pieces results in 100 + 200 + 300 = 600 points. In addition, if a row is full (one more piece being added will cause a loss of game) and all the pieces are of the same color, zooping the row earns a bonus of 5,000 points for the smaller rows on the top and bottom, and 10,000 for the rows on the left and right. All pieces cleared as a result of any of the four powerup items are worth 100 points.
To make matters even more difficult, the game also employed what was referred to as "opti-challenge" backgrounds. As the game progressed, the backgrounds would become increasingly distracting. Early on, this would involve the use of contrasting colors, and increasingly intricate color schemes. Background patterns would also become more intricate and would make subtle use of asymmetrical elements. Ultimately, the background on level 9 employed black and white tiles, roughly the size of the invading pieces, while the center square contained a picture of clouds, which expanded to fill the screen on levels 10 and later. Although the opti-challenge element of the game was used as a selling point, very little information exists about the technique itself, and no other game on the market has ever openly claimed to use opti-challenge graphics.
Sound and music
The DOS version of the game supports various sound cards, and features wavetable-like MIDI music. The sound effects have a cartoonish tone to match the vivid colors used through the stages. The music is basically jazz, and "evolves" with the game. The title and options screens, and the first stages, feature "smooth jazz" tunes. As the levels get harder, the music gets more and more tense, adding to the fast-paced atmosphere of the game.
The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly criticized the Game Gear version as having poor audio even by Game Gear standards, but otherwise were divided about the game. One of them said "It is more like work than anything else, and it certainly isn't addictive"; two of them said it lacks anything special but is still addictive and enjoyable for players of all skill levels; and the fourth called it "A must-try".
Reviewing the SNES version, a critic for Next Generation found the gameplay to be too complicated, concluding that "It's not bad really, but the idea isn't that intuitive, and once you get past the learning curve it lacks the addictive quality this kind of game needs." GamePro's The Axe Grinder similarly said that, while the game is fun and has good graphics and music, it lacks the addictive pull that an action puzzler needs to distinguish itself.
Sega Saturn Magazine (previously Sega Magazine) gave the Genesis/Mega Drive version a 62%, saying the game "has the curious compulsiveness of Tetris to a degree", but that it is overshadowed by more complex and graphically impressive games then on the market. Cover Girl of GamePro was pleased with the music and graphics, particularly the use of eye-tricking background contrasts in the later levels. She found the level select and five difficulty modes broaden the accessibility, but criticized that the game sends the player back to the beginning whenever they lose. She concluded that the game, while falling short of classics like Tetris, is an enjoyable enough puzzler to merit a purchase.
Reviewing the Jaguar version, GamePro noted that it made no changes from previous versions of the game. They said of the game itself: "A classic? No. Addictive? Yes." Next Generation similarly stated that "while Zoop is an enjoyable game, it's not exactly the second puzzling. ... Games like Tetris and Bust-a-Move have an undeniable magic, and while Zoop has the mechanics of a great puzzle game, it lacks that magic." They praised the pace of the action, in that the game demands the player's full attention from the beginning.
GamePro's brief review of the PlayStation version called it "an uncomplicated puzzle game that's only slightly hampered by squirrelly controls" and "a great addiction for puzzle fans."
- "Blockbuster Champs Invade GamePro!". GamePro. No. 87. IDG. December 1995. p. 50.
- "MobyGames Ad-Blurbs for Zoop". Retrieved April 10, 2007.
- "Review Crew: Zoop". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Ziff Davis (76): 52. November 1995.
- "Zoop". Next Generation. Imagine Media (11): 191. November 1995.
- "Zoop". Next Generation. Imagine Media (17): 94. May 1996.
- "Review: Zoop". Sega Saturn Magazine. Emap International Limited (2): 92. December 1995.
- "ProReview: Zoop". GamePro. No. 87. IDG. December 1995. p. 104.
- "ProReview: Zoop". GamePro. No. 87. IDG. December 1995. p. 86.
- "Quick Hits: Zoop". GamePro. IDG (91): 89. April 1996.
- "Quick Hits: Zoop". GamePro. No. 90. IDG. March 1996. p. 73.