Go inside the world of Zapper
with its' producer
by Michael Lafferty
This little cricket has a world of trouble … make that six worlds of trouble.
The game is Zapper, developed for multi-platforms by Blitz Games and published by Infogrames, Inc. The game follows the quest of the cricket named Zapper to rescue his brother from the evil Magpie queen.
The game features an intuitive control system, multiplayer games for up to four players, six interactive worlds to explore and a host of unique enemies out to thwart Zapper’s efforts. And this is one game that PC and console fans alike will be able to enjoy. The game is being developed for multiple platforms.
Ken Allen, the titles producer of Zapper, talked to GamingPolo about the game.
Question: Explain a little about the concept of the game?
Ken: “Zapper is a character-based action game that has its roots in classic and beloved genres, to which we've added some great twists and variations. Our main character is a little cricket named Zapper who’s out to set the world right. The game has been designed from the ground up to appeal to a very wide audience — avid gamers will pick up the controls and find the game familiar, yet challenging and fresh. The more casual gamer will probably like Zapper (the character) and end up playing because they've become proficient with the controls pretty quickly. It's the kind of game anyone can pick up and play. And, because of this, the game becomes pretty addictive once you reach the more challenging levels. We've also intentionally crafted the difficulty-curve so players are always telling themselves, ‘I know I can do this,’ yet they'll find themselves trying it ‘one last time’ again and again.”
Q: Graphically, does this game bring anything new or different to the genre? What type of engine does it use? What is the most striking visual element of the game?
Ken: “I could talk about polygon numbers, particle effects, physics modeling and what-not, but in the end what's important to you and me and to most gamers is ‘fun’ and ‘realism’ — and Zapper's got it in spades. The production value of Zapper rivals that of almost any 3D-animated program on TV. The environments are lush and alive, replete with dramatic lighting and a lived-in feel. And Zapper himself behaves as though he's really alive and intelligent. Our mantra from the get-go was to create a character people could really care about, and to create worlds that would be fun to explore. The production design for the levels in Zapper are some of the most varied I've seen in a long time. The further you go in the game, the more bizarre the levels become. You never know what's around the next corner.”
Q: This game is being delivered on a variety of platforms. In a nutshell, what major differences are gamers likely to see between the platforms?
Ken: “In fact, this game is being released on all the next-gen consoles simultaneously, including the PC! Zapper will take full advantage of each console's technical strengths, so we don't think any console owner will be disappointed after playing the game. But for a title like Zapper, it's pretty important that the game remain consistent in its content between consoles in a simultaneous release like this. After all, if you read a Game Cube review for Zapper and then purchased the Xbox version and found it to have fewer features than what you read about in the review, wouldn't you be a little disappointed?”
Q: From screenshots viewed, it looks like the game does borrow a lot from Frogger. How does the game progress and change to come up with its own identity?
Ken: “Both games fall into the same genre and Zapper includes game-play mechanics typical of that genre. However, these classic ‘avoid-em-up’ game play-mechanics are only the springboard (no pun intended) for the extra game-play elements we've added for Zapper. There's a reason we've called this little guy ‘Zapper.’ He can zap enemies and other things in his environment — Zapper can affect his environment — break open containers, collapse barriers to reveal hidden areas, disrupt the flow of laser beams, redirect the path of frenzied robots, weaken the grip of a giant mechanical bird on a steam locomotive. Zapper is so much more than the many games that preceded it.”
Q: The game features six interactive worlds to explore — what is your favorite, and which should provide the most challenges?
Ken: “Hmmm, do I really have to choose one? Each world offers such wide variety, it's really hard for me to choose a favorite. The early levels are rich and vibrant , while later ones are quite dramatic and frantic. One of the most dynamic levels in the game is the Voodoo Choo Choo, where you start at the caboose-end of a frenetic, run-away, flying steam locomotive — the wind is in your face and the ground is barreling along beneath you, all while fire-spewing jack-o-lanterns and hot-footed firecrackers patrol the roof-tops of many of the train's carriages. It's all pretty crazy and there's lots of dodging, zapping and super-zapping to do. On the other hand, one of my favorite levels in the game is inside The Reactor, located in the final game-world, where you have to do as much thinking as twitching. There's also a few levels that depart from the core play-mechanic but the goals are still the same. The Pipes level comes to mind, where you're caught in the relentlessly flowing currents of a gigantic plumbing system — you still gotta collect all the stuff, but riding within the flowing currents puts a new spin on things.”
Q: What has been the hardest part of bringing this game to life?
Ken: “Before we go any further, I want to give proper credit to where it's due. Our developer for Zapper is Blitz Games, headquartered in the UK and makers of several great games dating back to the earliest days of the video game era. Go to www.blitzgames.com to see what I mean. Among their recent hit titles are Chicken Run, The Mummy Returns, Frogger 2: Swampy's Revenge, in addition to another game we have in development, Taz: Wanted. So as you can see, Zapper is in some very competent hands. To me, the biggest challenge of bringing Zapper to life is the same kind of challenges you face when you create any new character, you want to design a character to be unique, but one that people can identify with and care about. Familiar, yet fresh. Appealing, but not cute.
“Geez, I sound like one of those overdressed stereotypical marketing knuckleheads you see in sitcoms. It was only a matter of time until someone created a video game with a cricket as the main character. Crickets are highly lauded in our culture — they are sources of good luck, they're one of nature's musicians and are even kept as pets in some homes. In fact, a cricket is the perfect character for a video game like this.
“By the way, I hold our marketing team in the highest esteem. Not one of them is overdressed.”
Q: What features do you think players will likely remember most about the game after they are done playing a session?
Ken: “No doubt about it. People will love the zapping. Zapping slugs. Zapping barrels of TNT. Zapping that annoying magpie. Remember the last time you touched someone and accidentally shocked them with static electricity? You were embarrassed and apologetic, right? But inside you were saying, "Huh, huh, that was cool!" Come on, admit it! Wouldn't it be cool to shuffle your feet along the carpet all day long and shock that annoying acquaintance who has that really irritating laugh? Or how about that family-member who drinks from the milk carton and leaves the carton in the fridge with only a tiny amount of milk? Don’t you want to zap him?!?
“Well now you can take out those aggressions in the game. You can zap the giant critter who swings at you from his cage with his razor sharp claws. Zap those termites and piranhas that populate forests and streams and pop up at the most inconvenient times. And zap that hornets nest that you been dyin' to annoy. No doubt about it. People will love the zapping — we know we do!”
Q: Does the cricket have any special abilities? What kind of power-ups will be available to him?
Ken: “Other than the zapping? Well, when zapping is not quite enough, there's the super zapping; a one shot, eyeball-blinding, incinerating, lightning-bolt-o-fun that reduces almost any foe to a smoldering pile of ashes. We've also given Zapper a kind of ‘radar’ ability which he needs to locate essential (though hidden) items. Zapper can super-jump to those extra high perches and ‘hover’ in place for a few moments when the timing of your landing is critical. And Zapper can also use a chirping call to signal a friend or two to join him when the time is right. For example, when it's dark, ‘chirping’ will call in a couple of fireflies to follow you around and light your path. There are also a number of power-ups we want you to discover as you play the game, some are quite deadly and others, well let's just say they'll give you a chuckle.”
Q: When is the estimated release date for this game?
Ken: “Zapper will zap its way to stores this November (2002) and will be available for the PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, PC CD-ROM and the GameBoy Advanced.”