So, Super Exploding Zoo. Upon first impression, it definitely continues Honeyslug’s penchant for weird and interesting ideas. The gameplay, however, is slightly more normal than their previous efforts. However, as I continued to play, the animals special abilities came out in force, making Super Exploding Zoo into a hilariously macabre take on tower defence.
I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, I apologize for that. Super Exploding Zoo in its simplest form has 3 main objectives: collect animals, protect the egg, and destroy the aliens heading towards it. It resembles tower defence games only tangentially, in the sense that you have a base (the egg) to protect and enemies to keep away from it. There’s no placing of elements, as your herd of adorable critters forms the basis of your attack. Said animals are scattered around the level in little groups, and it’s up to you to collect them. The more fierce the animal, the higher the hit points it has, and therefore the more likely it is to defeat the aliens after your egg. The strongest one at the moment appears to be the elephant, naturally, and there are multiple ways to tackle your adversaries. You can either rush in with all your herd, and basically flatten an alien if you have enough strong animals, or send a few of the stronger ones in with the touch controls (I played the Vita version), if you want to get all strategic with it. Of course, if you do rush in, you risk losing some of your weaker animals to the horde.
Those weaker animals are important, however. They’re basically your cattle fodder. Some animals are trapped in enclosures, and of course need freeing from their cage based tyranny. So, the penguins, for they are truly the underlings in Super Exploding Zoo, and you mostly use them to free better animals from their cages. Sorry little guys, but you gotta make some sacrifices in this world. Some animals are trapped behind moats, so you’ll need to sacrifice both an Alligator and a Penguin, with the snappy toothed one acting as a bridge for the Penguin to cross over. Before, of course, it blows itself up.
What surprised me most about the game, however, was how gleefully downtrodden the whole cast of animals were. In a way, their little sighs and expressive grunts were reminiscent of a game like Worms, albeit far less annoying. To hear a penguin resign itself to fate as it trots over to an explosive wall is really quite humorous, even after multiple times. Every animal has its own personality, and you can bet that the Pandas sound lazy. The game is just wonderfully expressive even at this early stage, with the art also providing some great visual gags. Essentially, everything is a form of explosive. Look closely at the screenshots, it’s easy to see.
Super Exploding Zoo is due out in 2014, and from what I’ve seen here, it looks like it’ll be extremely entertaining. Which is what you want in a game where penguins blow themselves up, to be fair.