Day 25: Zoomaroom

Posted: 2010/12/04 in Indie Games
Tags: , ,

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and no longer appear in the top 50 downloads. Today is day #25, and today’s game is “Zoomaroom”.

This is one Indie title that possibly put some people off with the presentation. That’s a shame, because it’s one of the best platformers, and one of the best physics puzzle games, I’ve ever bought. The fact that it’s both those things in one is really this game’s selling point.

The cartoonish presentation, complete with a character that exclaims “Whippee!” repeatedly may not be what people who enjoy physics-based challenges are expecting, but look underneath that and you find a game with smart level design and a tremendous number of equippable items. Wait, equippable items, you sure we’re talking about a cartoony platformer here, you ask? Yes, absolutely. Everything from a jetpack to a grappling hook are among the 15 equippable items, and you can equip up to two simultaneously.

Each of the 65 levels challenges you to find your way to the exit and (optionally) collect 5 coins per level along the way. Finding the exit will involve some exploration and platforming, and getting all five coins on every level will force you to exploit the physics engine to its fullest. The game smartly offers unlimited continues, because this game is about sussing out the way to proceed as much, or more, than actually pulling it off.

Playing this game made me realise that all platformers, to one degree or another, involve you accepting the game’s physics: you have to know how far your stopping distance is after a jump, how high a jump will take you, when to double-jump to get maximum height, etc. This game is no different save for the fact that the physics are far more realistic. Land a jump with a lot of momentum and your stopping distance will be much longer, often forcing you to consider options beyond simply running and jumping like a madman.

Long after I had beat the campaign of the original Halo, and long after I’d got my fill of its multiplayer component, I kept coming back to Halo trying to find way to get the Master Chief, or any of the various vehicles he can control, to places they didn’t belong by exploiting the physics engine. A friend of mine and I figured out how to get a couple of Warthogs to the bottom of the silent cartographer for example, and did so without the aid of an online resource (or even being sure it was possible). Zoomaroom tickled some of the same parts of my brain that I liked about doing things like that in Halo.

Many of you may like the charm-factor in Zoomaroom’s presentation. For those that don’t, I recommend giving it a try anyway if you’ve ever enjoyed a physics sandbox game or exploiting a game’s physics engine in ways it wasn’t intended. For 80 Microsoft Points the game is tremendous value, especially considering it comes with a level editor/creator. It’s also worth a look for platformer fans even if you’ve never tried a physics puzzle game.

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