Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PC
Someone over at the development squad at ZeroBit Games thought it would be an ambitious idea to craft a space shooter with a little more depth to it, one where you could build upon your ship and deal with the alien armadas flung your way. It's a neat idea, and the final product in which it was implied, Zotrix, carries it to a certain extent.
Unfortunately, its gameplay never quite reaches that level of ambition, and the clunky interface that you'll have to deal with when it comes to upgrades gets so bothersome that you'll begin to wonder if the effort is worth it. So, it's essentially a game that has a good blueprint, but somewhere along the way, something got lost in the foundation.
Not Your Usual Retro Shooter
Zotrix comes with two modes to choose from: Story and Arcade. Arcade is pretty much self-explanatory, as you take on incoming waves of enemies, Galaga style, while picking up the occasional power-up to clean house with. Story, however, is a bit more interesting, as you make your way through a number of stages, while essentially earning new goods along the way.
The game has its fair share of neat upgrades, including larger ships and better firepower – which is essential, considering you can only fire one dinky bullet at a time when you first start the game up. However, as we mentioned above, the way that the game's UI interface is set up can be completely tiring, as purchasing and trading feels more like a laborious process, rather than simply picking what you want to choose and go. It's like going to Trader Joe's and then arguing with the cashier whether you really need that honey sriracha bacon (in which case, of course we do).
As for the twin-stick gameplay set-up, it's interesting at first, as you can guide your ship's shots with a little twisting around, instead of just firing straight up like you do in most games. However, the controls are a bit too loose for their own good. You'll often find yourself drifting a little bit when all you want is sheer precision, and that can lead to an accidental death or two. What's worse, there were sessions where the controls dropped out completely for a second, leaving us like a sitting duck. Not cool at all.
It's a Good Looking Shooter, To an Extent
Where Zotrix does manage to get things right is with its presentation. The visuals are a chipper reminder of the old days of shooters, right down to the various ship types and the little scores that pop up with each one you destroy. This game doesn't go above that, but it doesn't really need to, as ZeroBit has definitely dialed in the old-school when it comes to appearance. Some of the ship designs are pretty neat, too – even though you have to push through that crappy interface to buy them all.
As for the music, it's fantastic. Composed by Giovanni Rotondo, it's made up of fun little beats that really feel right at home with the tone of the game, and picks up over the course of each level. It's rare to see a retro-based soundtrack do that, so kudos to Mr. Rotondo for keeping things rockin'. The sound effects are pretty good, too, about what you'd expect from a shooter of this ilk.