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Xbox Review - 'Zapper'

by Justin on Jan. 4, 2003 @ 10:40 a.m. PST

In Zapper (a cricket) you hop your way through six interactive worlds in a quest to find your brother, held captive by the evil magpie queen. Dangerous traps and even more dangerous enemies await Zapper. It will take fast-footed skill and timing to conquer all the worlds and survive the final showdown with the magpie queen. Is this game a winner or did we zap away to a different channel?

Genre: Action
Publisher: Infogrames
Developer: Blitz Games
Release Date: 05-Nov-2002

Zapper manages to rip off everything that made Frogger a nice game, but still ends up no fun.

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. A lot.

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. It can be very hard to judge accurately thanks to the overhead view and clunky controls. The simple gameplay might appeal to younger gamers, but the game becomes a bit too 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. Unfortunately, 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. Many of the characters tend to look the same as the last one you encountered, and the top-down view doesn’t help. 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. I admit that the idea of a simple, easy to learn, relaxing title wouldn’t be a bad addition to someone’s library of games, and kids would love the artistic style, too. Unfortunately, this game ends up being nothing more than a never-ending trial-and-error experience. If you want something in the same vein, I recommend Hasbro’s 3D update of Frogger, or Frogger 2: Swampy’s Revenge. Both could easily be found in a bargain bin near you, and are much more fun than this title.

Score: 5.0/10

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