Developer: Blitz Games, Atomic Planet Entertainment
Release Date: 11/6/2002
Remember the time you were watching TV with your little brother, but since the reception was coming in bad you made him hold up the antenna so you could sit and watch your favorite show? That’s Zapper’s philosophy as well, but instead of making his younger brother hold the antenna Zapper forced his little brother Zipper to BE the antenna. To both of their misfortune however, a greedy magpie named Maggie has recently been plundering the area around Zapper’s home and stealing everything and anything shiny. Zipper, being shiny himself, was plucked away from his temporary job as a TV antenna by Maggie and taken to a faraway place. Thus, it’s up to Zapper to venture off, find Zipper, and put a stop to Maggie’s greed while doing it.
One will immediately approach Zapper with the mindset that it is geared towards the younger crowd, and rightfully so. The characters, the way the manual is written, and the simplistic gameplay will all appeal to the lower age groups, but does the game have enough appeal to bridge the gap and entertain the older gamers?
In every level in Zapper there are eggs left lying around by Maggie that you must find and eliminate to continue on to the next level. Eggs can be sitting out in the open, walking around the level, hidden inside objects, or placed in dangerous areas. To aid Zapper in his task of destroying the eggs he has a decent sized list of moves and abilities. Zapper is tile based, meaning that you move from square to square (Although the actual “square” isn’t visible). The directional pad moves Zapper around from square to square via a small hop (due to being a cricket). The way the hopping looks can take a bit to get used to though, since it really looks disorienting at first. The A button uses Zapper’s antennae to zap enemies, or to perform a super zap if Zapper is charged. The B button makes Zapper do a super jump, which leaps over an adjacent square and any enemies or obstacles it contains. If you press and hold the B button Zapper will perform the super jump then hover in the air, useful if the square you were about to jump to is now occupied by something undesirable. The L and R buttons when pressed alone can be used to rotate which way Zapper is facing. When press together, the L and R buttons can be used to make Zapper’s antennae point to the nearest egg.
There are many different enemies in Zapper. Some enemies can be eliminated via a good zap or super zap, while other can only be avoided. Touching an enemy or obstacle will hurt Zapper, so sometimes you have to be quick and know when to jump out of harms way. There are also other things to collect and utilize while Zapper is on his quest to find his brother and squash the magpie eggs. Power orbs can be collected and used to give a boost to Zapper’s zapping power. Other powerups such as the quick boost can give you the edge by allowing Zapper to more about twice his normal speed.
The graphics in Zapper look a bit unpolished. While the occasional cutscenes showing stills of the characters along with text look nice as well as the characters in game, the color palette is a bit too generic and as a result there is nothing that really grabs your attention. To compound the matter, since Zapper is tile based many of the areas look exactly the same with little to differentiate one part of a level from another. Sure, the layout of the level is ever changing and different, but it’s always the same textures and tiles repeated over and over again. Zapper’s zapping effect and the various animations look nice, but some of the enemies really could use a few more frames of animation.
Sound in Zapper is a mixed bag. While initially the title theme and game music sound great, once you begin playing the level and hearing the same song over and over again it can get a bit grating. The sound effects in the game are actually pretty good throughout, there is a small hopping sound effect every time Zapper moves but it is very subtle and never becomes repetitive. The zapping sound effect sounds very much like the crackling bolt of sheer electricity it is supposed to represent as well.
Overall Zapper is a decent kid-friendly title that will appeal to younger gamers, but the older crowd will find little to keep the gameplay fresh and compelling. That’s not to say that Zapper is a bad game, it does need some polish here and there and a little bit of tweaking, but even for a GBA game there isn’t a whole lot of depth. Younger people or people that are relatively new to gaming will find the simplistic controls and gameplay very intuitive, and with the lighthearted characters and plot there is nothing that would be considered objectionable or in bad taste. If you have a little one with a GBA that wants a new game, or you yourself are a younger gamer, Zapper will be right up your alley. However, older gamers should probably steer clear of Zapper, as while the gameplay is fun for a while the honeymoon ends rather quickly.