Friday, 15 June 2012

Zytron II (PC)

The classic scrolling shooter Nemesis (aka Gradius) walks into a pub, catching the eye of modern twin-stick masterpiece Geometry Wars amidst the smoke and cheap perfume. They have a few pints, laugh a little, and... well, you know how the story ends. Let's just say that sometime down the road, a bouncing, healthy Zytron II was born - and it was good.

Billed by its creator, Kevin Murphy of Trinosis, as a "scrolling version of Geometry Wars," Zytron II is the sequel to an old C64 game - Zytron Megablast (don't worry though, this was worth the wait, unlike some other retro reboots). Unlike its side-scrolling predecessor, which bears more in common with shooters of yore, Zytron II employs a "twin stick" control scheme and complete freedom of movement within a scrolling stage, brought into the modern era with features such as an energy bar and multiplayer support.

The stages and enemies of Zytron II are composed of bright, colorfully neon-lit geometric shapes and effects. Not only will you have to blast countless flying enemies that approach from every angle, you'll also have to destroy missile-launching turrets, avoid waves of projectiles, squeeze through passages, disable ship-melting laser barriers, and grab firepower and energy boosts.

The game can be controlled via joystick, keyboard, or mouse, as well as a combination of methods. I found mouse control to be the best choice - it gives one the ability to very quickly (and precisely) move from one end of the screen to the other, as well as deftly swoop through the sometimes tight, maze-like corridors. (It's so far superior that it's even recommended in the game's help screens by the developer.)

This tight control scheme married to the unique combination of scrolling stages and dual-stick, 360 degree field of fire, produce something much more than the sum of its parts. Gameplay is bolstered further by a wide range of achievements and an addictive multiplier system: for every 40 ships you demolish, a score multiplier is added, and for every hit you take, a multiplier is taken away. It isn't a matter of simply surviving each stage - it's a matter or surviving well, and every hit inflicts a sting almost worth than losing a life, causing expletives to fire off almost as fast as enemy bullets.

The developer wasn't content to stop there, however. Multiplayer is fully supported in Zytron II, allowing up to three other players to simultaneously join the fray, and even play cooperatively by sharing energy. Top this off with gorgeous, retro-inspired menus reminiscent of the shareware scene of the 90's, a delicious bumping techno soundtrack (also very 90's inspired) as well as satisfying sound effects galore, and I'm sold.

I've played many fantastic shooters, and Zytron II is a welcome addition to the pack. In a market crowded with "retro" shooters, Zytron II, with its frenetic and exciting gameplay, scratches an itch that many others somehow miss. This fantastic title can be enjoyed by gamers of all skill levels and I highly recommend it, especially for fans of the genre.

Download the demo/buy the game here (from the Psytronik website).
4 out of 5