At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Matt Bailey Nintendo DS Kiloo Games Kiloo Games 1
Requirements
A Nintendo DSi or 3DS required to download DSiWare.

Zoonies review

Nintendo have put some of the delay in the release of the "e-Shop" for the 3DS down to wanting to get the shopping experience right, and after you attempt to use the "DSi Shop" you soon hope this is true. Games like Zoonies get lost at the back of the queue with a Z at the front of the title, and even finding the game when I knew the title was difficult enough. And it's a real shame because if you don't discover Zoonies then you're missing out on an interesting and enjoyable puzzle-platformer.

Zoonies has the visual stylings of a videogame tie-in to some obscure European animated series, and while it is bright, colourful, and family-friendly, so are the vast majority of games for the DS, DSiWare included. It may look pretty, and the artwork looks great on-screen, but it doesn't stand out from the crowd on the basis of graphics. Instead Zoonies becomes interesting because of how it plays.

Don't forget your toothbrush!

Don't forget your toothbrush!

The basic premise is that you must safely guide the (imaginatively named) Leo the Lion to the end of each level, but unlike traditional platformers you don't control the main character directly, and must instead do the guiding by interacting with the objects in the world. Unless a block stands in his way, Leo will just keep on walking straight to his own doom. Using the stylus to make either taps or swipes on the screen, objects can be cleared or moved to allow Leo to progress, something that becomes important when he is being chased by a marauding tribe. There's a whole variety of different interactions that can take place, from tapping rocks, to pulling levers, to flinging Leo through the air with what amounts to a canon. The variety is great and helps keep your interest over the course of the game's 20 levels, especially as almost all of them are well executed.

Unfortunately there are some issues with platforms, which is a surprising lack of precision in a game where timing is crucial. They provided the greatest frustration for me, although this was probably the only time I felt the game was causing Leo to die rather than my own misdirections. Dying is something which will happen fairly frequently, which is to be expected in a puzzle-platformer, but for some reason Zoonies features a lives system which doesn't really make much sense. You start with 10 lives, and more can be earned through levels either by a life pickup or through the traditional collecting of 100 coins which are usually hidden in pots you smash by tapping on them. When you run out of lives you get a short scene where Leo looks sad and is captured, but really that is the only consequence I've been able to spot. Apart from the fact that you'll have to restart the level you're on. This means if you begin a level with only zero lives or one life remaining, then you might as well die, watch the scene and come back to ten more. After all, why risk running out of lives so close to the end of a challenging scenario. It seems a curious decision that only seems to get in the way of Zoonies' charming appeal and detracts from the sense of risk and discovery that players should be experiencing as they try to find their way through for the first time.

Boss fights provide variety between the regular levels

Boss fights provide variety between the regular levels

Ultimately the lives issue is a minor one, and thankfully the platform one is too. Because ultimately there are some great ideas for interaction here, and it's a pity sometimes that some of them aren't used to a greater extent. Some ideas are not utilised enough across those 20 levels, and we hope they can be fleshed out and expanded on in a follow up title. We'd also like more of Zoonies because this edition only took about a couple of hours to complete. Considering it only costs about £4.50 (500 DSi Points), roughly equivalent to a digital rental these days, that's not too bad a deal, and that's not taking into account the replayability of the levels. There are multiple routes through which are not particularly different, except that greater rewards are available for those who are quicker, riskier or more clever when it comes to the puzzles. Each level has three collectable items which can provide a reason to return, but possibly more compelling is that each level is timed with an optimal medal time which adds an addictive desire to return again and again to find that optimal route.

More levels and online leaderboards for those timings would have been welcome here, but limitations of the DSiWare platform may have got in the way of resolving both issues, particularly with regard to the size limit for downloadable titles. As it stands Zoonies takes full advantage of the service to provide an enjoyable bite-sized experience we hope many people will discover on their DSi, or even on their 3DS when DSiWare joins the handheld soon.

Ratings

Overall Zoonies is a game with far more depth and originality than its cute and cuddly apparence would suggest. It's a fun puzzle platformer, and a great addition to DSiWare. We could have done with more of it, but that only makes us eager to see a follow up in the future. 8/10

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