Ever considered a career in publishing? Zeal has you playing a magazine editor for a popular woman’s magazine by the same name. It’s half hidden object, half assorted mini-games, with most of your work involving cleaning up page layouts for print.
You play as Amy, who is presumably starting a new job, since she gets a cellphone call telling her she’s late for her first day of work. Her career involves acting as an editor for Zeal with the help of a few quirky coworkers. The text dialog speed is way too fast to catch all of the story, and I consider myself a fast reader, so this is a bit frustrating. Anyhow, there’s very little said, so it’s not really that important.
Around half of the games are played in hidden object style. The player is shown a magazine layout, full of a variety of objects, many of which don’t belong (like eggs and screwdrivers in a fashion spread). A list of around a dozen objects is included at the bottom, and the player must find these among the pages. On the whole, the hidden object portion of the game is fairly easy. Some objects are obscure, but most are clear enough to find. All of them repeat over and over again, but are generally color blended to fit into the new scenes. Unfortunately, most of the graphics consist of slightly blurry photorealism.
There are hints available, and you can take as many as you’d like, provided you give the hint meter a chance to fill up. There is no timer on the screen, and there doesn’t appear to be any way to lose, so you can take your time. If you make too many incorrect clicks, your mouse will disappear for a couple of seconds. This is more of a deterrent than a punishment, given that the game is untimed.
The quality of the other games varies. There are plenty of original ones, however in most cases, the instructions are unclear. There are a couple of “spot the difference games,” and a few where you need to find multiple occurrences of the same item (like airplanes at the airport).
In the game called “Color Shifts,” the objective is to add objects to a picture to change its color, like adding yellow paint to a blue paint can to make green, or using a can opener on a can to release peas, which are also green. Not all are logical, and I couldn’t figure out why adding duct tape would make a street light green.
If you fail too many times, you must replay the level. This is annoying, since you’ve already completed some of the puzzles, so you need to go through parts you’ve already beaten to get to the part that stumped you. On the other side, it’s mostly short and easy, so it doesn’t take long to replay.
In another game, called “Dyes,” you need to mix four colors into the bowl to make proper color dyes. You’ll be told either the names of the colors to add, or shown photos which hint at the color (ex. cow = white, blueberries = blue), or told the name of an object that hints at the correct color (ex. walnuts = brown). Do this three times and you’re done. This had potential, but could have been more interesting, or at least longer.
Another of the more frustrating games was the accessories game, where the goal is to dress the models with appropriate accessories. There isn’t much rhyme or reason behind why some accessories go and others don’t.
One of the best and toughest games is the "Quick Scan" game, where objects scroll through the scanner, and some come out changed. The player must click the ones that are different, but avoid those that are the same. The objects move through fast, at varying speeds, and you must check multiple objects at the same time.
The real fatal flaw in Zeal is the length. You can expect to beat the entire game in around two hours time. This is a real issue when you compare it to other casual games in the genre, which typically run for at least four hours or more. Sure, you can replay the levels as much as you’d like, but there’s no real incentive to do so.
Other than presenting some original mini-games, there isn’t much more to say about Zeal, which is unfortunate. The magazine theme and the fact that you have to go through layouts and clean them up is really cool, but your edits are completely arbitrary and unconnected. This would have worked better (and been more logical) if you had to find ALL of the mistakes on the page. The concept is good, and the magazine layout as the main menu was really neat, so it’s disappointing that the rest of the content didn’t live up to expectations.