As a kid, I was pretty big into edutainment games. Any excuse to play video games in school I took, from Number Munchers to Oregon Trail. Some titles were more "entertainment" than "education," but I ran with it anyway -- and in some cases, I taught my fellow classmates how to earn a high score. Good enough, right?  However, in all my childhood I never had a chance to play Zoombinis [$4.99 (HD)]. I'm glad that I changed that recently with its iPad release, even if it hasn't aged all that well.

This story opens with the adorable and titular Zoombinis entering an ill-fated contract with the Bloats, who end up eventually enslaving our heroes. Because the Zoombinis are ever so resourceful, they make a great escape and end up seeking out their own promised land. This all happens within the span of a few minutes, and after assembling your own custom crew (where every character must be unique) that's basically all you're going to get from a narrative standpoint. Instead, you'll be tackling puzzles, which basically form a custom story around the basis concepts presented in the intro.

Zoombinis2

Yep, Zoombinis is a logic game set across 12 maps, which function as unique puzzles. For instance, one stage forces players to move their characters across several bridges, each with their own custom rule sets for who may cross them. It's up to you to explicitly figure out what rules apply for what bridge, lest you run out of time. This calls for a certain degree of memorization as well, since you'll have to manually deduce, and keep track of, all of the reasons why you may or may not be able to cross. The controls are incredibly simple (though finicky at times when touching certain areas), as they solely involve tapping characters and then tapping the destination -- that's it.

None of the puzzles involved are particularly difficult, which makes sense since it is designed as a teaching tool. Just know that as a result, many of the levels blend together, and you'll likely zoom past half of the game before realizing it. Once you've done that, there's very little in the way of replay value. You might get a kick out of showing the game to a niece or nephew for example, but there's no real reason to play it again after trekking through it in an afternoon.

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In terms of its visual style, Zoombinis holds up rather well on paper, as the characters are all full of life and of course, timelessly cute. However, much like the gameplay, the animations are severely dated, and not even this mobile re-release can make them shine. Even all of the screenshots I've taken, despite their high resolution, look washed out and like a relic of the past.

As a cherry on top of sorts, there are no IAP trappings or ads. Instead, what you see is what you get. If you have a child or an open mind for a edutainment, Zoombinis is worth checking out -- just know that time doesn't heal all wounds.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarNone
  • Monteirri

    Some games should not be reviewed or mentioned for that matter.

    • kopesetic88

      I appreciate the review. I like to "retro" angle to it but I also have a kid and like to idea of having game apps that are also accessible for kids. This might be a nice rainy day app for the family.

  • joshjosh667

    Wouldn't replay value be the additional difficulty levels? Not to mention getting all the required zoombinis to the destination.
    I played this many years back on PC and found it quite hard to get through on the harder settings. While all logic, etc it was really be a challenge. This might change now that I'm not pre-teen.

    • nini

      I thought so too but disturbingly I forgot everything I remembered about making the right zoombinis (besides always double up any you make) and got lost by the pizza level. I don't know how I got worse and i'd rather not consider why my logic solving skills bottomed out to a level below when I was 12.

  • Mighty Rabbit Studios

    No replay value? Only if you're some kind of monster that doesn't want to repopulate Zoombiniville!

    In case you missed it, progress in Zoombiniville is persistent. Every time you rescue a batch, they stay in Zoombiniville and as more come the town grows. It certainly made fourth grade me replay the game a hundred times.

    This game is the reason I was able to pick up programming so easily as a kid. It teaches logical thought processes that are invaluable for programming.

  • BohemianCoast

    The reviewer does appear to have failed to notice that the game gets harder as you replay, and that the hardest levels are quite taxing.

  • the_rebel14

    Wow... I remember playing this in Kindergarten! It's been a while!

  • Nazim Suzaly

    The first bad review from TA i have come across. It is obvious that the reviewer did not play the game until the part where it gets more and more difficult as we try to increase the population of zombiniville. I suggest they update this review. This game has great replayability.

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Zoombinis Reviewed by Chris Carter on . Rating: 3.5