Children are stupid. As much as I hate to admit it, I was a child myself at one point in my life. Despite this disappointing development, I resolved to better myself by playing video games that made me smarter. For me, Mario Teaches Typing, The Oregon Trail, and Microsoft Paint dominated the 30 minutes of “computer time” we got every day at school. These games taught me everything I know! One day, a game called Logical Journey of the Zoombinis showed up in my fourth-grade classroom and I was immediately hooked after playing it. It was a simple game of puzzles and logic that challenged my young mind and remained in my consciousness until this very day.
Older games that are either remastered or re-released can often fall victim to the nostalgic tint of the past, causing us to misremember the greatness of any given release. Zoombinis is a PC game that absolutely falls into this category.
The biggest problem with the 2015 Steam release of Zoombinis is that it’s just not very interesting. The goal of the game is a traditional one: Simply complete all the levels in the game to rescue the Zoombinis from their evil captors. As the Zoombinis travel across the land, they must complete logical puzzles, like crossing bridges that are allergic to your feet, making pizzas for fat wooden stoner creatures, and jumping across lily pads on top of giant frogs. These puzzles are entertaining and can make you think a bit, but it’s unfortunate that they are so limited. Each Zoombini has four different features: hair, eyes, nose color, and feet, and about half of the puzzles are based around logically placing the Zoombinis into groups based on the differences between their features. Unfortunately, in terms of puzzle structure, this doesn’t allow for a whole lot of variation. There are only twelve puzzles in the entire game, and increasing the difficulty doesn’t change the structure of the puzzles much. It makes the puzzles more challenging, sure, but it doesn’t provide a reason to keep playing through the game other than making your brain work a little bit harder. And who wants to do that?
There are other types of puzzles, as well. There’s a particularly memorable one that I already mentioned: The pizza making puzzle. Easily the star of the show, you have to determine what a tree-stump-character-thing wants on his pizza. This is a particularly amusing puzzle, as you have to throw on a myriad of different toppings to determine exactly what he wants. This results in some hilarious moments, especially when he finally gets his perfectly designed pizza.
The game does have some nice things going for it. One of the benefits of being a mid-90’s PC game is that there are some nice hand drawn backgrounds sprinkled throughout the game. The Zoombinis are adorable, and their animations are very well done. Some of the environments were cleaned up in this remaster, and they look as charming as any hand-drawn game of the era. It seems the developers did not take the same care into tidying up the audio, and as a result, the music and (cheesy) voice acting still sound compressed and muddy. As for the actual puzzles themselves, they are fun to play through once or twice, but there isn’t much of a point to coming back and replaying them repeatedly. There are around 400 total Zoombinis to escort to the end of the game, but I couldn’t be bothered to even save 100 of them.
As a game, Zoombinis really doesn’t do enough to keep you interested. The puzzles can be challenging on the harder difficulties, but it’s really not an experience that you can get invested in. Perhaps it was meant to be a game that was only meant to be played by children in thirty minute bursts, and if that’s the case, they did a great job. The game does a fantastic job at getting you to work that under-utilized grey matter. Otherwise, there’s not a lot here. If you like logic puzzles, check it out. Any other gamer would be advised to steer clear.
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