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ZapEm Review

Developer: Vicious Bytes Publisher: Vicious Bytes
Release Date: December 10, 2004 Also On: None

Another puzzle game. Haven’t we gotten enough already? Aren’t there enough Tetris clones and gem swappers around? Sure, there are, but ZapEm is not one of them. For a puzzle game, it has quite a fresh concept. It is a clone of another puzzle game, Zoop, but that one is by far not as popular as Tetris or Bejeweled which means that ZapEm still is interesting. It’s something most of you have not played before.

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So, how does ZapEm work? That is difficult to describe since I cannot say “it plays like Tetris upside down” or something like that. Even if I describe the game in detail, you will hardly get an impression of how the gameplay mechanics really feel. I will try it anyway: you are a spaceship (or something…) and you have a color. The playfield is like a vertical and a horizontal Tetris street crossing with the square field in the middle being your area. You can move in this area and shoot in all four directions.

On the four “streets” there are other spaceships appearing which then become columns of spaceships that move in your direction. Every one of them, like you, has a color. When you shoot into a direction, you destroy all ships that have your color and then change colors with the first ship that does not share your color. Each street has four columns. When the other ships enter your square play area, you lose.

At first, this is confusing. You shoot in all directions and soon you die. Like with every other good puzzle game, you have to learn the patterns. After a short time you will notice that you are getting better. You have to learn the right combos and recognize the color patterns, then you will soon be improving your highscore. Once you get past the confusing beginning phase, an addicting action puzzle game like Tetris unfolds. Power-ups that clear a column or destroy all ships of one color in one of the streets add variety. While the game mechanics are not quite as perfect as Tetris, it is a game that you have not already played for many hours and that makes it better than the average Tetris clone.

Speaking of Tetris, Vicious Bytes’ last game was a perfect Tetris clone with very clean graphics and great music. ZapEm has a very similar presentation. The game does not have technically impressive graphics. Instead, it features very clean 2D graphics that look really professional. The effects, while basic and subtle, get the job done. ZapEm does not look overloaded, it looks good. Tapwave would call it Eye Candy.

The sound is of similar quality. The music is great but does not get too repetitive. The sounds for zapping and the menu sounds have style and sound satisfying. Vibration adds to the game and makes it more intuitive. The presentation does not impress you the first time you see it but it is perfect.

ZapEm is an action puzzle game first but there is also the BrainZap mode which is not timed. You are given a fixed pattern and have to clear it with a given number of Zaps. This mode is a nice contrast to the action mode and while there are only 20 puzzles, it can keep you occupied for a while. The puzzles are not easy and it takes a while to get them right. This mode also teaches you a few tricks you can then put to use in action mode.

ZapEm is a puzzle game every Zodiac gamer should have in their collection. It makes great use of the Zodiac’s hardware, supports both digital and analog direction control and is a really addicting action puzzler. Even though there is no demo you should trust me when I say it is worth the fair price.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 8.5
Final: 8.5
Written by Ortwin Review Guide

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