Version tested: GameBoy Advance
Puzzle games aren't exactly known for their deep plots, and ZooCube is no exception. Apparently the evil Dr Ooze is turning animals into strange geometric shapes, and it's up to you to take control of the Ark and its fleet of ZooCubes to return the unfortunate creatures to their natural form.
Obviously this involves capturing them two by two (it's an Ark, alright), and this being a puzzle game you'll achieve this by spinning and rotating your Cube around all three axes to catch the poor creatures, who pile up on the Cube's six faces. When two identical shapes line up next to each other they both vanish in a puff of smoke and you get some points. As with any good puzzle game it's a ridiculously simple concept, but one which gets ever more complex as each level passes.
At the start of the game you only have to deal with one shape at a time, and there are only six different varieties, one for each face of your Cube. Gradually things get more frantic though, as two or more shapes arrive in quick succession and you find yourself dealing with anything up to two dozen different shapes, some of which can look quite similar. Bonus points can be earned by collecting little icons that appear floating off the end of a line of shapes, or by clearing the Cube, or balancing it so that it has the same number of shapes on every axis, or...
Shape And Form
The main game is the "Classic" mode, in which you need to rescue a set number of animals to progress to the next level. Once you've done this the level is unlocked, allowing you to jump directly to that point in the game next time you play.
As the action hots up, lines of shapes will start to stretch outwards from each face of your Cube, and if you get too many in one pile they eventually reach the edge of the screen and it's game over. Luckily the piles can be shuffled by hitting the right shoulder button, allowing you to bring the shape you want to the business end of the line, and you have a limited number of smart bombs which will blow up one shape on each axis. There's also a helpful display which shows you what the next two or three inbound shapes will be and which direction they will arrive from, giving you time to get yourself pointing in the right direction. Hit the A button and the nearest shape to the Cube will be locked on to that axis and dragged inexorably towards it, even if you're busy frantically spinning the Cube to catch another shape. At first this is just a way of scoring a few more points, but as you get further into the game's seven levels it becomes absolutely vital.
You can also unlock levels for the KO and KO Blind modes, which start you off with a Cube with one of each type of shape already attached to it, leaving you to match the appropriate block to the inbound ones as they appear from the edges of the screen. This also pops up in the Classic mode in the form of KO Bonus levels, which are sometimes triggered when you completely clear the Cube of all shapes. Meanwhile the KO Blind mode builds on the KO mode and makes it harder to identify the shapes by turning them all grey unless there's a matching one on the same axis.
While this describes the basic mechanics of the game, you really have to play ZooCube for yourself to appreciate how it all adds up to an enjoyable little puzzle game. The graphics are colourful, the gameplay simple yet effective, and although seven levels might sound like slim pickings, it will take many hours to unlock them all in Classic mode, nevermind in the KO and KO Blind modes. And then of course there's the choice of co-operative or competitive two player link modes. It's all good clean fun, and makes ZooCube arguably the best example of its genre on the GameBoy Advance to date.
9 / 10