Bringing Back The Classic 90’s Adventure Game – Zblu Style
The original Zblu Cops comic series, a comedy about a group of incompetent yet reluctantly heroic group of law enforcers, grew a modest cult following in its country of origin throughout its run. However, with no official English translations of it ever released, its fanbase was never able to expand beyond there in any great numbers. Biodroid’s video game would have been its first foray into English-speaking markets with the team hoping for an international release.
The title entered development midway through 2008 with ambitions high, one former developer recounted, calling it “an attempt to revive the classic 90’s adventure game”. Biodroid’s initial pitch to comics publisher Glénat placed a high emphasis on accurately conveying the humour and goofiness of the comic, but was very much set on blazing its own trail. It would have seen players controlling 10 different members of the Zblu Cops, each with their own unique abilities used to solve puzzles and take down enemies. Two officers were rendered on screen at a time, but you could cycle through a wheel of other playable characters to alternate between them in real time; similar to the LEGO video games. It was to be fully playable in 2 player local co-op, as well.
Excerpt from the initial press release:
On a criminal trail which takes them underwater, through the jungle, down the sewers, up the tower-blocks, inside a volcano – and even into deep space – the Zblucops display all of their notorious dysfunctionality, bad taste and even worse humour… before emerging triumphant with a fist-full of medals.
This action/adventure game brings to Wii the kind of strong storytelling, humor and dialogue found in traditional adventure games.
Zblu Cops was presented in a cel-shaded art style; a play to authentically represent the hand-drawn look of the comics. Even more crucially, we were informed that Bill and Gobi, the writing duo responsible for the series, were actively involved with development on the project from its inception. Their contributions mostly included overseeing the art direction, in addition to having final say on any other aspects. We were told that the two were very laidback when it came to writing duties, allowing the developers plenty of creative freedom.
The environments, we were informed, had an openness to them. Story progression was entirely linear, but the player was always free to explore the apparently vast worlds in some depth. They were crammed full of mini-games and in-jokes referencing more obscure elements of the comics.
It was first on exhibition to the public at Fibda2008, a media convention in Amadora, Portugal held on November 10, 2008. An early prototype version was on display there, shown off by several members of Biodroid, including the project’s art director. It was a build containing the first level developed – the sewers stage.
Following this, the first official teaser trailer made its way online several months later on February 20, 2009. It offered a first look at the Zblu Cops HQ and how the Wii remote’s IR pointer was being used to control guns.
E3 2009 saw the debut of the title’s first fully featured trailer with nearly 3 minutes of footage. It showcased some of the unique attacks in the arsenal of the main characters, as well as elements of 3D platforming and puzzles.
The final gameplay clip ever released of Zblu Cops Wii was uploaded to the now defunct official website. Clocking in at 6 minutes long, it contained video of some of the later areas planned, such as chapters set in a space station and a jungle.
By February 2010, the team at Biodroid had made considerable progress. We spoke to Bruno Patatas, the lead designer on the project, who told us that work on the project had reached approximately 70% completion when the final call was made to cancel it. Despite having a number of interested parties – several different publishers from around the world, the developers were never able to close a deal to distribute it. Unable to self-publish, they were left with no choice but to shut down development. Bruno attributes the reason for them being unable to find the right publishing partner down simply to the obscurity of the brand; nobody was willing to take a risk on a comic the West had largely no exposure to.
Among the various former members of the Zblu Cops team we were able to contact, a good amount of them were enthusiastic about how well it was shaping up. With several more months, perhaps they would have been able to deliver on the 90’s throwback adventure game they were aspiring to create.
Character concept art:
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