Zoombinis: Bringing a beloved ’90s game back for tablets

When Zoombinis was first around in the 1990s, it was a popular edutainment computer game used in and out of the classroom. It spawned two sequels, and the three games together sold over 1 million copies and was translated into about 6 different languages. Well, ’90s kids rejoice because it’s coming back this summer to iPad and Android tablets.

For those unfamiliar with Zoombinis, it is a math and logical reasoning game for both children and adults. It tests data analysis, pattern finding, and problem solving through different challenges where you journey through a world with the Zoombinis, cute little blueberry creatures. “It’s a really fun game that’s educational, as opposed to being something that’s educational and has a gaming factor around it,” said David Libby, Director of Technology at TERC.

The game is now owned by TERC and developed in conjunction with FableVision Studios and Learning Games Network (all Boston-based companies), but for years it was being passed around to different ownership. Libby said it didn’t really have a home for a while and its absence was felt by the public. “TERC was getting the occasional coax from people outside in the community, from teachers, and kids who had grown up with the game and were now adults and had kids and wanted them to play the game.”

The problem was that it had been so long since the game had been updated, it wasn’t compatible with modern platforms anymore.  “Even though people loved the game and thought it was great, there was no way to play it,” said Libby. The re-release is a way to offer the game on new platforms, update the graphics, give it a higher resolution, and redo the animation.

“We’ve been working really hard to use today’s digital tools to bring the art and animation and touch technology into this relaunch,” said Sarah Ditkoff, Communications and Development Strategist at FableVision. “The superfans will still have the familiar nostalgic feeling with it, but it feels like a new fresh game.” Ditkoff said players will also experience more depth and interactivity with the new game.

However, they didn’t want to change the game too much since they found people still loved the classic.  “The fans told us they love the music and narration, so pretty much the spirit of the game, the core of the game, the look and feel of the game, they’ve all been maintained,” said Libby.

A new kickstarter allows fans to support the relaunch and if successful, it will expand future platform support to include PC, Mac, and tablets of all sizes.

Zoombinis will be available this summer for $4.99 on iPad in the App Store and on Google Play. Depending on the success of the Kickstarter campaign, it will also be available on the Amazon App Store, commercial outlets for Windows and OS X, as well as through various educational partners.

Michelle Harven

Michelle Harven

Michelle is a current graduate student at Emerson College and an intern at Boston's public radio station. She enjoys exploring the world of educational technology and writing about the ever-changing sector and its potential.