Super Exploding Zoo – Review

Title   Super Exploding Zoo
Developer  Honeyslug Ltd.
Publisher  Honeyslug
Platform  PS4, PS Vita
Genre  Tower defence/puzzle
Release Date  June 3rd, 2015
Official Site

Another month, another mixed crop of PlayStation Plus games. Sifting through this month’s offerings, I already owned Metal Gear Solid and Futuridium and, for sure, I don’t care about the PS3 stuff, so it was really up to Super Exploding Zoo to make it worthwhile. After a few minutes with the game I was bemoaning the fact that here I am in 2015, playing yet another indie game that would work just as well on a tablet. The game itself is an interesting take on the tower-defence genre, although that’s really a terrible description. The idea is that your zoo is being invaded by aliens who want to steal unhatched eggs. To stop them you have to wake up all the sleeping animals and use their natural abilities to defend the egg on each stage and destroy the alien invaders.

Each animal can do a certain amount of damage to the aliens but it is their main abilities that you’ll have to use. Crocodiles, for example, can be used as bridges to access new areas, while monkeys can climb walls and activate switches. It’s all pretty straightforward but the game’s clever level design means that each stage is enjoyable to figure out and, as it progesses, it does get very tricky.

Eventually you’ll be controlling a horde of different animals and, with aliens coming thick and fast, at that point you need to multitask. Pressing any of the shoulder buttons freezes the action and lets you plan routes for individual animals, so you can be freeing sleeping animals, jumping walls, making bridges and taking out aliens with precision attacks all at once. When the game’s levels start demanding this, the game really steps up. Staying just the right side of being too complicated, these levels are fiendishly tricky but very enjoyable. I spent an hour trying to beat one particular level and, oddly, I really enjoyed it.

What I particularly like is that the game feeds you new animals and abilities at a good pace. Of course, the early levels are really just an extended tutorial and, after a while, there are quite a few gameplay elements to consider, but it never gets too complicated.

The gameplay may not be for everyone but it is worth persisting through the early levels to get to the later ones. However, I imagine a lot of people will be put off by the game’s presentation; it’s a typical indie effort, which means cute but basic visuals. The short loops that make up the game’s soundtrack aren’t very impressive either. It’s a shame because a lot of people will disregard the game pretty quickly and they shouldn’t because it is a good title but, understandably, people are a little bit sick of the current glut of indie games with basic visuals. At least it isn’t 8-bit styled, I guess.

With cross-saving with the Vita version, it’s easy to keep your progress going, which is a good a thing because, with eighty levels on offer, there’s a big chunk of strategy/puzzle action here, and this is one of the better puzzlers on PSN right now. And it’s free so what more do you want?

  • Solid and enjoyable strategy action
  • Very good level design
  • A fairly original take on the defence genre
  • Cross-buy and cross-save
  • Basic presentation
  • Tactical controls can be a little fiddly

Super Exploding Zoo, like every other indie game, mixes basic presentation with solid gameplay, and offers an enjoyable but significant challenge to players looking for a strategy fix with a difference. It's easy to ignore, even after you've fired up the first few levels, but if you stick with it there's a pretty rewarding game to be had here.

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