Super Exploding Zoo Review

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Title: Super Exploding Zoo
Developer: Honeyslug
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 737 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

When it comes to indie games, the majority of the breed that comes to the PlayStation World isn’t exclusive to that world.  If you look at a lot of the indies that are on the PS Vita, you’ll notice a trend.  Nihilumbra.  Race the Sun.  Pocket RPG.  They’re all from other platforms and brought over to PlayStation afterwards.  Most of the indies in the PlayStation World are ports of previous indies that have done well on other platforms.

It is more uncommon to see indies that are exclusive to the PlayStation brand.  We have seen a few of these in the past, like Krinkle Krusher, Monster Bag, and Murasaki Baby.  Because of those games, there still is the occasional indie that releases without going to PC or other platforms as well as PlayStation.  Today, I have another review of a game like that.  Having released for a bit of time now, here is my official review of the PS Vita, PlayStation TV, and PS4 indie title, Super Exploding Zoo!

Story

There isn’t an explained story as you play through this game.  But, the basic plot is that greedy aliens have invaded the zoo and are after animal eggs.  In response to this threat bomb-clad animals fight back to take down the alien invaders in order to protect their eggs.

Gameplay

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Like many indie games before it, Super Exploding Zoo is a mix of different genres and doesn’t have a sole genre to be defined under.  The base gameplay is a cross between puzzle games and tower defense games, creating a gameplay type of its own.  Since the tower defense elements are the biggest and most important parts, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that this is a tower defense game with puzzle elements.

In each level of the game, your task is to protect one or more eggs from alien invaders that slowly move across a 2D map towards said eggs.  If they reach the egg, it’s an immediate game over.  You play as animals that explode on contact with enemies, so it’s your task to collect as many other animals as you can and self-destruct nearly all of them to destroy all enemies with at least one animal still standing to complete the stage.

The strategy and puzzle elements come into play with the stages as well as abilities of different animals.  Some animals are just standing around for you to recruit and others are on islands, cages, and other hindrances.  You have to think to get to these animals.  Certain animals can cross water, so you need one of these to read the island-bound animals.  Some of the cages are protected by dirt walls or metal walls, so you need specific animals that can detonate themselves past dirt or can operate TNT to get through to the animals.

Figuring out who does what isn’t a bad task, but it can be hard to make sure you don’t accidentally use up all of your animals.  Even if you use your last penguin to blow up a wall, unless there’s another to move in and recruit the others, you’ll get a game over.  Each level is a task of surveying the island to see what you need to do as well as what you the proper order to do these tasks is.  Make one slip-up and it could ruin the entire stage for you.  There’s a fair amount of strategy involved, despite the simple nature of the game.

There are a few different game modes you can go through from the main menu:  Puzzle houses the 80 levels of the main campaign, each separated by area.  Hatchery allows you to discover new types of animals as you progress through the game.  Souvenirs and High Scores lets you see score progress and stickers that you’ve unlocked in the game.  Finally, there is Versus Mode for the multiplayer portion of the game.

The Multiplayer is the most surprising part of this game, by far.  Despite being a small indie, Super Exploding Zoo has online multiplayer features.  Versus Mode allows you to create or find rooms in online lobbies where you can go head-to-head with other plays, collecting animals and avoiding hazards as well as attacking the enemy group in the hopes of you being the last one standing.

Although the multiplayer is a neat part of the game, there are also some issues with it.  Whenever I go online and go into multiplayer, whether I successfully join a room seems to be hit and miss.  I can find and go into the same game several times and I could fail to join 5 times out of 10.  I’ve tested this in different rooms and on different days and the result is always the same.  It works well once you get into a room, but getting there can be a task in itself.

All in all, the game should last you at least 3-4 hours to get through Puzzle Mode and more if you want to do multiplayer and get all of the unlockables.  For an indie, it’s got a decent amount of length to it.  There isn’t a whole lot to do outside of the base gameplay, but it does mix things up pretty well with the different areas and different game modes.

Controls

The controls can be easy, but there are a few options available to you.  First of all, there are touch controls for the game.  By tapping and sliding your finger across the screen, you can direct an animal for you in case you wish to use those instead of the touch controls or want one specific animal to move away from your group.

You can use the Left Analog Stick to move your character and the Right Analog Stick to move the camera around.  The D-Pad doesn’t do anything in the game, nor do the X, Circle, and Triangle buttons.  You can use the Square button to activate an animal’s special ability and the L and R triggers are made in combination with the Left Analog Stick to create paths similar to that with the touch feature.

All in all, it’s a very easy game to play.  There aren’t a lot of controls so it’s a pretty simple control scheme for a pretty simple game.

Presentation

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The presentation is where the game was hit the hardest.  First of all, the visual presentation looks decent with its 2D renders, but the renders are far from perfect.  Whenever they’re moving in the slightest bit, you’ll see jagged edges all around the edges of the models, like you normally would in a 3D game.  Not that the game looks terrible, but it doesn’t look the greatest either.

There were two main problems with the presentation when the game launched and those were frame-rate and load times.  The frame-rate issues happened in the hub world.  Whenever you were there, there was a substantial drop in frame-rate as you traveled around to go into a level.  Since a recent patch went through, though, this has been completely fixed.

The problem that remains are the load times.  When you first boot up the game, it can take a severely long time to be able to get you to the main menu.  Sometimes, I’ve waiting 5 minutes or more just to get through the initial loading screen.  Some stages also take a long time re-load when you wish to retry a level.  It’s to a point where it’s a fair hindrance on the game’s pick-up-and-play nature.

Summary

Super Exploding Zoo is a unique indie that combines puzzle elements with tower defense elements, something the Vita doesn’t have a lot of.  On the downside, there are extremely long load times, the presentation has a lot of jagged edges on the 2D models, and it’s hit-and-miss with trying to join multiplayer matches.  Past this is an interesting indie to keep pass the time, but has faults that can definitely hinder the experience.

7/10

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