LadiesGamers Zapling Bygone

Zapling Bygone Review

Game: Zapling Bygone
Genre: Action, Adventure, Arcade
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows), Xbox and PS4)
Developer|Publisher: 9FingerGames| JanduSoft
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US Teen
Price:  US $12.99 | UK £11.69 | EU € 12,99
Release Date: March 9th, 2023

Review code provided with many thanks to JanduSoft

Standing Out 

Many adventure games often aim for an uplifting tale of a hero going on an epic quest to take down a great evil. Exploring the world, collecting new abilities and gradually getting stronger whilst going off the beaten path looking for secrets. It’s a winning formula many developers mimic, making it a bit tricky for games to stand out.

Zapling Bygone takes on a darker approach to the formula and mixes in some precision platforming, which ends up making the experience quite special. If you’re up for the challenge and want an experience that’s a bit eerie, then be sure to look into Zapling Bygone.

LadiesGamers Zapling Bygone
Competition for the most gooey alien

Hive Mind

The game’s premise is that you play as Zapling or Zap, an alien asylum seeker looking for a new home on an unknown planet. Zap is not exactly what you would call a typical game hero. This entity is part of an alien hive mind that transfers into defeated enemies’ consciousness through touch. But it’s ok it only takes the information from the deceased and leaves the living, so I guess it’s kind of a good guy? Your goal is to explore a new planet learning about its inhabitants whilst trying to figure out a way to fight back against the ‘infection’, an evil parasite wanting to take over everything living or dead, including you.

The tone generally feels pretty grim, especially since you take on the skulls of your deceased enemies. However, I found this intriguing premise quite different from typical video game stories. Much of the lore is discovered by collecting pictures or fragments which tell you more about the backstory in the options menu. If the story is not your thing, everything is kept short, making this easy to enjoy just for its gameplay.

LadiesGamers Zapling Bygone
Catch up with the lore in the menus

Get Lost

Zapling Bygone follows the typical template of an adventure game. Explore a large map seeking out new skulls, which are usually acquired following a boss fight. Once obtained, you unlock a new ability like dashing or double jumping, enabling you to access new map areas. The game leans heavily into exploration; you’re not given direct instructions on where to head for your next objective, a map is provided, but parts aren’t revealed until you defeat a boss in the region. This made the general experience a lot more rewarding for me, but I can see some getting a little frustrated by this design. The idea of just getting lost and hopefully stumbling on something useful reminded me of a more retro time when games didn’t hold your hand.

Exploring usually rewards you with perks which can be equipped to your mask of choice in the options menu to allow you to build your ideal Zap. The difficulty doesn’t stop there. Boss fights in this game are pretty gruelling, I don’t think there was a single boss I didn’t have to repeat multiple times over. What I appreciated about these encounters is there was a lot of variety in the design.

Some boss fights do rely on the traditional follow pattern and waiting for the right opening. But others have you race away from something chasing you while performing precision platforming. Another has you avoid enemy attacks until a timer runs down. This variety extends to the game’s overall adventure, which doesn’t waste time with familiar-level designs. You regularly encounter new challenges. The only hurdle being is, it might take a bit of backtracking and exploring to find the next area to progress.

LadiesGamers Zapling Bygone
Why have one boss when you can have three

Remember to Heal

Controls are tight and responsive. The game doesn’t exactly give you a tutorial apart from when you unlock a new ability. So be sure to jump into the options to become familiar. It was here I discovered you could heal your character provided you have enough charge, an extremely handy feature during the tough sections but comes with a short delay. Platforming does require some precision, making sure to depress the jump button light for a quick jump and longer for a higher and longer leap. It took me a bit of time to get used to this. With Zap having spidery legs, it was a bit hard to get footing for where it would land. This did become much easier as more moves were unlocked. 

Once you have finished the game, there is plenty of incentive to replay. There are additional modes to play through, such as explorer mode, which unlocks all the base abilities from the beginning and a randomiser mode which changes up enemy placement. Adding a somewhat roll of the dice to your next playthrough.

LadiesGamers Zapling Bygone
Not the happiest planet I’ve visited

The Itsy Bitsy Gooey Spider

The graphics are 2D pixel sprites with plenty of attention to the detail of the characters, enemies and environments. I loved Zap’s animations, especially when it goes for a swim. As mentioned, the general tone of the environment is mysterious and dark. As I played the game, I always had an eerie sense I was being watched and felt more unnerved by the NPCs I met, who clearly did not welcome my presence. But who would blame them? Zap looks like a creepy gooey spider with a skull for a face. Not exactly something I would want to shake hands with. As far as designs go it’s very unique, easily standing out from the competition. I absolutely commend the developers on their originality; the game reflects a sense of doom and gloom. I totally dug it.

Performance in the game was mostly good in TV and handheld mode, but there was an odd slowdown in random sections, even though not a lot appeared to be happening on screen. The biggest problem I encountered was crashing. Almost every session I had reviewing this game resulted in some form of a crash to the Switch main menu. There was also one instance where Zap fell from quite a height and got stuck in the environment, unable to escape without quitting to the main menu. The crashes were a pain, but save points are reasonable, so this was more a mild irritant than a detriment to the gameplay experience.

LadiesGamers Zapling Bygone
Explore and find some nice surprises

Conclusion – A Rewarding Challenge

Zapling Bygone is a dark and challenging platform adventure that I recommend. The game design feels familiar for an adventure game, but it’s the game’s presentation that makes it stand out, along with its steep yet rewarding challenge. If you love exploration, Zapling Bygone will reward you for your efforts, although this may not suit those looking for a guided or casual experience. During reviewing, the game is let down with regular crashes and the occasional performance issue, but hopefully, these will be ironed out with time. Ultimately I liked what Zapling Bygone was going for. It sucked me into its hive mind and made me a fan. If you’re up for the challenge it just might suck you in too.

Final Verdict: I Like It

I like it

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