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by Infogrames

Blitz Games’ newest puzzler, Zapper, represents a look in the right direction, but with absolutely no follow up. Players may be interested enough to hop through the first few levels, but will soon find the only puzzle left is why they’re still playing the game. This game simply lacks any real draw or staying power that’ll make you want to hang around till the end.

Zapper: One Wicked Cricket, which closely resembles the Frogger series, begins with our hero, Zapper, discovering his little larval brother, Zipper, has been spirited away by the evil Maggie the Magpie. Maggie is a bit of a packrat. She steals stuff from all over the world and replaces it with a vulture egg--not exactly an even trade. Leaving those eggs is more than bad taste, though. By placing her eggs everywhere Maggie hopes to have her henchbirds thieving for her across the land. Needless to say Zapper enjoys his brother’s company much more than his newly acquired vulture egg so he sets out to rescue little Zipper. To do this he must traverse 18 levels of puzzle action.

To progress to a new level Zapper has to find six vulture eggs scattered throughout each level and squash them before they can hatch. He won’t be going it alone, though, as several of his cricket friends are on hand to give clues along the way. Zapper will receive further aide by freeing fireflies that will lead him to nearby eggs. If he frees enough fireflies they’ll gather together and provide our hero with a "super-zap" that can break special containers or defeat tough foes. Also thrown in are secret areas in each level. Those areas are most easily accessible by exploring out-of-the way places like a hollow log or open doorway.

Zapper’s visuals are its strongest card. The environments are colorful and well represented in the spirit of this game’s cartoon nature. The special effects such as Zapper’s electrified antenna are pulled off nicely. Though the game is viewed principally from a third person, bird’s eye view, Zapper throws in some mild 3-D elements as well. Still, though, while the graphics are attractive, they lack any solid detail. The levels are a varied in appearance, at least, which helps to soften the blow of impending boredom.

Zapper has a decent amount moves at his disposal during the course of his adventures. Tapping the X button results in a "super jump," which comes in handy when those eggs are up high. Holding the square button also helps Zapper find elusive eggs by pointing his antenna in the direction of the closest one. One odd feature is the need to push the forward button repeatedly to make Zapper move. Each time you push a directional button Zapper will hop one block in that direction. Understandably this comes in handy when making precision maneuvers, but once you’ve pushed forward about 200 times to make it through one level you’ll begin to care less and less about the logic behind this control decision.

The Nick Jr’ish feel of this game shines through in its music as well. The music is just too goofy and quickly becomes irritating. Zapper’s high-strung voice is also a source of irritation, which you’ll hear regularly. After half an hour you’ll be reaching for the mute button.

Besides the story mode, Zapper offers an arcade mode and a multiplayer option. The arcade mode lets you revisit the levels you’ve completed and allows you to time yourself to see how quickly you can succeed. The multiplayer mode adds to the game’s appeal somewhat with five different games. They range from Zipperball, where opponents try to toss little Zipper into a goal to a regular death match. One interesting feature is that you can customize your own multiplayer game manipulating the rules of the already existing games like time limits and scoring. This way you can at least fix some of the things you found irritating.

Zapper is a very straightforward puzzle game lacking many extras. With attractive visuals, this game will probably draw fans of the genre. The lackluster gameplay will not be able to hold them, though. Zapper just runs out of steam. It could’ve shaped up to be a decent title. Unfortunately, that potential was never fully realized. Unless you’re starving for a new puzzler, I find it very hard to recommend this title to anyone.

Todd Allen   (01/19/2003)


Ups: Colorful environments.

Downs: Lackluster gameplay; annoying sound and music.

Platform: PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox