Much of my childhood was spent playing educational (or edutainment) games. I believed I was tricking my parents into letting me play games. Who knew that they were actually tricking me into learning? Out of all the games that I owned The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis has never been forgotten. I still own the original game, even though it won’t run, and have been searching for something to match its charm for years. It’s no surprise that after hearing about Zoombinis being re-developed through KickStarter, I had to immediately check whether it was still as good as I remembered.
Zoombinis is about a group of small blue creatures that are being bullied by the evil Bloats. To escape from their homeland and arrive at the safe haven of Zoombiniville, they must travel a treacherous journey filled with puzzles, which is where you come in.
You must customise groups of 16 zoombinis, per adventure, and use your logic skills to get through each of the game’s 12 puzzles. Each puzzle is based off working out the required patten to move forwards, which are normally based off the attributes of the chosen zoombinies in your party (their hair, eyes, nose and feet). For example, the first puzzle involves two bridges and the zoombinies must cross to the other side. Only certain traits are allowed to cross over each bridge, and the player must quickly work out which match each bridge before they run out of pegs and the bridge breaks.
The ability to customise the zoombini party for each playthrough makes the solution to every puzzle unique for every time that you play. While the problem always remains the same, the specific conditions change. In the bridge puzzle, mentioned above, the bridges that were focused on whether they liked certain hairstyles in one playthrough, could be picky about nose colour in another, reinforcing the logic required to find the correct answer. It also means that it’s possible to be clever about the way you design the characters – only using two of the possible hair types means less factors to consider when working out a pattern solution.
The game is aimed at children, meaning that most of the puzzles are easy to work out and may not entertain those looking to challenge themselves. The more each game is played, however, the more difficult they become. The puzzles always have the same base concept, but the requirements will be larger, or needs of the characters greater. For example, the game that requires feeding trolls their favourite pizzas adds both more toppings to choose from, and extra trolls to feed. You therefore have more to remember concerning who likes and doesn’t like each topping. Some of the puzzles do actually get to be quite the challenge, widening the spectrum of ages that can appreciate what the title has to offer.
The main downside to the game is that it’s short, with only 12 different puzzles to play. The changes through the difficulty levels as well as those that come through each set of customised zoombinis do help to keep the game fresh. There is a personal touch as you know you brought the little creatures to life through choosing what they look like, and feel a sense of dedication to getting them safely home. This concept is further pushed by the fact that finishing the title with different groups, and on different difficulties, rewards the player with news buildings in Zoombiniville, giving a bit of incentive to play through a few times.
What makes Zoombinis memorable is the unique style and character within each puzzle. Who could forget Arno the fussy pizza loving troll, or the gangster Fleens? While I personally have a lot of nostalgia for the art-style and music, some players are perhaps going to see certain elements as a little outdated. The game certainly benefits from its upgrade in the visuals, and I find the little animations of the zoombinis to be fun and endearing, but perhaps my rose-tinted glasses are a little thick in places. Sadly this is particularly the case for the zoombinis themselves, with their basic designs clashing against the beautiful background environments. They almost look like they belong in a different game, but have been awkwardly slapped into this one, which is odd when they’re supposed to be the stars of the show.
While there is music for traveling on the map, and to introduce each puzzle, the levels themselves can feel eerily quiet. There will be plenty of sound effects, be they from the environments or AI characters, but there are actually a few less than in the original title. The zoombinis used to mutter and interact with each other more while the player was working out an answer. The whoops of joy for solving problems also happen less often. The most obvious change is that there is no longer any sound effects to accompany their movement – footsteps for shoes, engines for the wheels, etc. It’s a shame that some of these small details have been taken out, as they added to the personality of the zoombinis and their world.
Zoombinis has certainly survived the test of time, due to its warm charm and personality. It is not going to please everyone, as some are going to see the graphics as a bit too outdated, combined with the simplistic difficulty. While the game actually has very little replay value I do find myself repeatedly returning to this title. It is satisfying to solve the puzzles on higher difficulties, and I still have a happy sigh of relief when I get them all safety to their new home.
Developed by TERC
Published by Viva Media
Available on PC, Android, iOS (Reviewed on the PC)