Console: Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo
Ranking in Sega Genesis Top 50: 44th
Publisher: Viacom New Media
Puzzle games occupied a relatively high number of spots on our Sega Genesis Tournament, especially considering how few were released as a percentage of the Genesis’ library. The same will probably hold true if we ever get around to doing a SNES version, too. If you find that to be a bit surprising, keep in mind that we focus on which games are still fun to play even now, and puzzle games tend to retain their appeal better than most other genres. The reason is simple enough – more so than any other type of game, puzzle games depend on their originality for appeal. You can’t just throw in some prettier graphics or add a movie license to Tetris the way you might for a platformer. And while that makes it a lot tougher to make a good puzzle game (not all of these original ideas are great, after all), the ones that succeed are less likely to be made obsolete a few years later. Good puzzle gameplay is timeless.
Just about everything else about Zoop, however, is not. This game screams mid-90s, from its stupid name, to its visual style, to the simple fact that it was published by Viacom during that era when big media companies (Fox, Virgin, etc.) all tried their hand at publishing video games. It is, in nearly every way, a great big corporation trying to capitalize on the whole “alternative” trend in style but not in substance. Which is really what the mid-90s were all about – mainstream “non-conformity”. Corporate-sponsored counter-culture. What? You thought all those identical, tuneless alt-rock bands you were watching at Woodstock ’94 or on MTV were really preaching an anti-establishment message? Don’t be so mayo.
For people around my age, seeing a throwback like this can actually be a bit disquieting. Everybody likes to think that things haven’t changed that much since their teenage years, but the15 year mark is kind of that point where the delusion starts to reach a breaking point. Things change so gradually you don’t even notice them when its happening, but after this much time it gets harder not to notice. It’s not that you’re in complete denial, sitting around in a flannel shirt at a coffee shop listening to Tripping Daisy, it’s more that you’ve completely forgotten that’s what people used to do back in 1995. Admit it – you think that the way things are now was basically the way they were back then. Oh sure, we have a better internet and more people have cell phones and stuff, but from a non-technological standpoint, everything else stayed the same, right? It’s only when you catch a rerun from the first season of Friends or youtube a Smashing Pumpkins video that you look at it and notice that the haircuts and clothes look really stupid. And then you dig out the yearbook and realize that you and your friends all had those same stupid haircuts and clothes back then, too.
What happened? You used to be young. And hip. I mean, you wore grunge clothes and rocked that shaggy, center-parted haircut like nobody’s business. Then somewhere along the line, buying clothes at the thrift store became something you did out of necessity rather than fashion. You told the barber to cut your hair differently than the last time (unless you’re David Spade). Got a job (again, unless you’re David Spade). Turned thirty. Probably got married and had some kids. And now they’re the cool ones and you’re just… old.
So yeah, play Zoop. It’s quite possibly the most unintentionally depressing game ever made.
Editor’s Note: Writing about puzzle games turned out to be a less interesting read than being bummed out about getting old, so sorta forgot to spend much time actually discussing the gameplay of Zoop. If you’re really interested, here’s a pretty good review from Sega 16, although they didn’t enjoy it quite as much as we did.