"When they say "Fun for the whole family," this time they mean it."

Yes. It's a learning game that's fun, interesting, has replayability value through the roof and when you find it in a box ten years after your younger self stopped playing it you'll be overjoyed. I'm talking, of course, about The Logical Journey of The Zoombinis, and if you didn't waste at least a month of your childhood playing it non-stop, I pity you. It's one of the most addicting games I've ever played, and I play Pokemon.

Story - 3/10

There isn't really much to the story. The Zoombinis are cute little blue blob things with various distinctive features, and no three Zoombinis are alike. They have a happy, sheltered life on Zoombini Isle until the plot gets moving, which is when they're visited by the Bloats. The Bloats offer various deals to the Zoombinis to increase their profits from the items they make and trade. The Zoombinis - being trusting sorts - agree, and it seems that all 600+ of them proceed to sit back and let the Bloats completely take over and enslave the lot of them. Nice.

The Zoombinis eventually get tired of slavery, and decide to escape. So, 16 at a time, they set off in a boat (which can either teleport or leave a duplicate of itself every time it leaves, because once you reach the mainland it automatically arrives back at the Isle) to build a new home, going through many puzzles in the process, which is why you bought this in the first place.

Gameplay - 10/10

About as simple as point and click gets. Very, very easy to learn the basics, but some of the harder puzzles really will have you scratching your head. It's got a great learning curve, and it even has a practice mode (Ctrl+P) to let you have a practice on any of the puzzles you simply cannot do. Each puzzle has 4 modes (easy, difficult, hard, very hard) and you proceed to the next mode after successfully getting all 16 of your Zoombinis across to the next resting point. When you do this you'll also get a new building in Zoombiniton, the Zoombinis new home. You'll have puzzles that are your favourites and you enjoy doing, others you'll dread. I, for example, absolutely hate Titanic Tattooed Toads on the harder levels because it takes so damn long to get anywhere, whereas Mudball Wall is hands-down my favourite. It doesn't matter, though - the lure of getting another 16 across, as strange as it sounds, is simply too great.

To actually do the puzzles, you have to use the Zoombinis different features - hair, eyes, nose, feet. There are five options for each feature (e.g. you can have purple, blue, orange, red or green noses). Each Zoombini has an identical twin, which adds up to a lot of Zoombinis. In most of the puzzles (with a few exceptions, like Mirror Machine in the later levels) you have to pick up a Zoombini and place him or her in the correct spot, using the Zoombinis features to work out where that might be. Let's take an example - Allergic Cliffs, the first puzzle you run across. There are two wooden rope bridges, and in video games all wooden rope bridges must come crashing down in a spectacular cut-scene. Each bridge has a guardian of sorts, a face in the cliff. Each face will only accept certain Zoombini features, such as only Zoombinis with spring feet may pass one while any springs trying to pass the other is in for a rude awakening. Whenever you make a wrong choice, the Zoombini will be sneezed off and you'll lose one of the stakes keeping the bridges up. Lose all the stakes, and bye-bye bridge. You can never permanently lose a Zoombini - they'll turn up at the last resting spot (either the Isle or one of the two campsites). Once it's impossible for any Zoombinis to go further - such as the bridges going down - those that made it across will go on to the next puzzle, and the rest will be waiting for you back at the rest stop.

So it has simple, simple gameplay. Why does it score so high? Because it's what games are supposed to be - fun. Forget beating up puny little monsters so the boss doesn't paste your characters across the floor. Who cares where the next save point is? There's no rush. Take your time. This is Zoombinis. It's really more of a play-it-to-believe-it game, but give the little guys a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Graphics 5/10

Simple, brightly coloured, gets the job done. In the campsites you can click around to get the scenery to do stuff, but it'll quickly get old. You'll never get confused as to what features your Zoombini has, unless your computer truly sucks. No amazing FMV cut-scenes, but that isn't what you bought the game for. There are a few nice touches as well that make you smile when you see them, such as the scenery in Allergic Cliffs (trees, rocks, etc) all having faces as well.

Music and Sound 7/10

Nice voice acting where needed, although the narrator/guide-type person, who you never actually see, can become very annoying at times (especially when you've heard all his phrases hundreds of times before) but a click of the mouse will skip his babbling. Which is a mercy, because if you had to hear "Strike the targets, ONE AND ALL," every time you did Mudball Wall, well..it wouldn't be pretty. Sound effects do the job and sound like what they're supposed to be, and first time round can be downright hilarious. And the music...aah, the music. The main theme of this game is awesome. Each of the four trails has its own little spinoff of the main tune, and it won't get old. Believe me. It doesn't. You won't be turning off the speakers for this game. When you actually do the puzzles, background music is either nonexistent or very subdued, which is a good thing if you're trying to work out what to do next. That doesn't mean the music itself is bad - I kinda like the Bubblewonder Abyss music. Sets the theme pretty well.

Replay - Infinite/10

Really, I'm not joking. There's no such thing as a quick game of Zoombinis. None. Never mind that you've done the same puzzle hundreds of times over - it doesn't matter.

Buy/Rent

Oh, please. Would you rent out the original Tetris? Would you rent out a main Pokemon game? Would you - okay, you get it. Jeez.

Overall 10/10

An awesome, awesome game that is sadly obscure and overlooked. None of the sequels hold a candle to this absolute gem of a game. Accept nothing but the best. The concept may sound ridiculous, but, as I said before, give the little blue guys a chance. They'll own your soul, and you'll love every minute of it.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 02/06/05


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