Zool 2

Product placement is something we see quite a lot in movies and TV shows these days, and to some degree it is becoming increasingly noticeable in games too - I vividly remember seeing Mountain Dew adverts everywhere in Rush 2 on the N64...even though, at the time, I had no idea that Mountain Dew was a real drink. Why do I remember that? I have no idea...but  maybe it had something to do with having to repeatedly drive my car off a ramp into a huge rotating can of Mountain Dew. More recently there were Samsung logos plastered all over every menu in Perfect Dark Zero and I'm sure there have been other games with real-world brands festooned all over every surface - although special mention must go the Duke Nukem: Zero Hour for it's wry, comically-named false brands making a mockery of the whole sordid practice. 

With this in mind, Zool 2 is a game which unashamedly displays it's particular brand of choice (or should that be the other way round?) at every opportunity: Chupa Chups lollipop logos are pretty much everywhere in the game, from the menu screen wallpapers to the levels themselves as either floating pick-ups or background details. It kind of makes sense, seeing as Zool himself is an ant...and ants like sugar - or some shit - but there is no subtlety here, folks. Chupa Chups were involved in the funding of this game, and they'll be damned if every kid playing Zool 2 doesn't know it. 

In Zool 2, you take control of the titular Zool or his missus - Zooz. Ten out of ten for coming up with a suitable name for the female character there, Gremlin. In typical Amiga-platformer fashion, you then embark on a rather odd trip through various themed stages, killing enemies, picking up ridiculous volumes of collectibles (in this case, what appear to be floating sweets) and avoiding everything that looks like it will kill you. Note: everything that moves will kill you...or at the very least deplete your health bar. I picked up a real Bubsy-esque vibe from Zool 2 in that there doesn't seem to be any real aim to the game other than 'collect everything, kill everything and get to the end of the level before the time runs out.' And that's pretty much all there is to the game. As the name suggests, Zool 2 is a sequel and the first game appeared on most of the major platforms. This game though, was only ported from the Amiga onto the Jaguar so it's a pseudo-exclusive as far as console versions go. I did liken the game to Bubsy several sentences ago, but that's a little unfair with hindsight - Zool 2 is more similar to something like James Pond: Robocod, what with the surreal level designs and in-your-face product placement...and the Amiga roots, but that's not to say I dislike Zool 2. 

I'll admit that I'm not a massive fan of this kind of platformer, and the Zool character does nothing for me, but once you realise that you're meant to use Zool (or Zooz's) special abilities to get through the stages, it becomes an entirely different prospect than just running left and right and shooting stuff. That's because with careful use of the jump and attack buttons, Zool becomes a bouncy spinning whirlwind of death, as he spins through the air brandishing his sword and slicing enemies to bits. You can literally hold the jump and attack buttons down and just bounce around like a ninja (which is what I guess Zool is meant to be anyway...), attaching to walls and timing jumps to avoid invincible enemies and traps. It does become a lot of fun once it clicks that this is how you're meant to play - a bit like when you eventually realise that in Daytona 2001 on Dreamcast, you are meant to go around corners sideways

Zool 2 isn't the best looking game on the Jaguar (or even it's native Amiga), but it is colourful and runs very smoothly. The music is a bit crap as it is generally made up of background beats with random 'comedy' sound effects played in a loop over the top...but you can always hit the magic '0' on the keypad and mute the horrendous dirge. Also - Zool 2 is the first Jaguar cartridge game I've played that has an animated cut scene intro. It's only about 5 seconds long and is just a rendered Zool showing some 'tude, but it was a nice surprise when I loaded the game up. I don't really know what else to say about Zool 2 - it's a playable and pleasant platformer with some interesting gameplay mechanics and some functional yet colourful (if heavily branded) graphics. There are two different characters that have the ability to open up different paths through the stages and there are some interesting bonus stages which basically play like Break Out.

If you enjoy Bubsy or Robocod, you're sure to enjoy Zool 2 (and most likely the prequel too). A tidy and enjoyable platformer with some cool ideas. 

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