Every once in a while, you’ll stumble across a smaller game that feels like a unique find; a game that’s refreshingly fun and interesting, and yet not time-consuming in its depth. These kind of games are becoming more and more frequent with Sony’s excellent Playstation Plus service, and Super Exploding Zoo is a great example of this. It’s an interesting, tactical puzzle game that will engage you for all of its 100 levels, and leave you feeling thoroughly entertained. Will it win Game of the Year? No, but it’ll win your heart for the 4 hours it takes to beat.
The premise of the game is relatively simple: you begin with a single animal, and must accumulate a horde of creatures in order to outnumber the attacking aliens and defeat them all before they reach an egg. Think of it as a more actively engaging tower-defence scenario and you’re halfway there. You’ll begin the game with a group of penguins, who each have a single hit point and have no other abilities apart from self-destruction. Four of these little fellas will take down a single alien, but you’ll also need them in order to destroy barriers to eventually release other animals who will join your herd. These other animals include monkeys, lions and koalas to name a few, and each has its own power to contribute to the group. Monkeys, for example, can scale walls and press switches to open doorways, while the lions can roar at enemies in order to slow their progress to your egg. Each animal also possesses a different number of hit points, and so you’ll need to weigh up whether it’s worth taking down an alien and losing them in the process, or keeping them for their unique skill. Eventually you’ll also realise that pressing either of the shoulder buttons initiates a tactical mode that lets you give orders to be carried out simultaneously, which adds yet another layer of depth. If you’d rather do it all in real-time, however, this is also entirely possible.
While the game begins almost numbingly easy, it quickly progresses to fiendishly tricky, and you’ll be repeating stages time and time again after your egg is eaten. This rarely becomes an annoyance though, as every attempt teaches you that a certain manoeuvre won’t work, or that there’s more animals than you may have initially thought. Finishing stages with many animals spare is also beneficial, and adds a slim layer of replayability to the whole experience. Though not entirely necessary, ending up with 10 animals rather than 5 will allow you to put points into the Hatchery; a building that unlocks other animals to play around with. While these unlocks boil down to little more than alternate skins of existing creatures, it still adds some nice aesthetic variety to the game.
Speaking of aesthetics, Super Exploding Zoo also looks reasonably nice, especially for such a small-budget game. Though not particularly unique, the stages and animals are all presented in a very Cartoon Network-esque style that makes the whole experience feel that little bit more polished. The bulbous eyes of some of the animals are genuinely amusing, and this engaging design is found in the enemies also. It’s not particularly fresh or new, but the game looks nice enough. The soundtrack is nothing to write home about, but it does its job by accompanying the action without becoming monotonous or too repetitive.
There’s not a whole lot more to say about Super Exploding Zoo, other than that it’s a fun puzzler which should keep you entertained for a few hours. I played through the game on PS4, but I imagine it would be just as enjoyable – if not more – when played on the Vita. There’s also a multiplayer component to the game, but unfortunately I had no luck connecting to any other players while trying it out. It won’t be on anybody’s top games of the year, but Super Exploding Zoo is a blast, and worth checking out if you want something a little different.
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