Zeitē Review
Posted by PlayDevil.com Staff on Mar 11, 2011 14:21
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Written by: Alex
Shoot um ups are slowly eating their own tail and becoming increasingly niche. With the ever-increasing need to differentiate themselves from the morass of series in this fan reliant genre new mechanics and gimmicks are needed to spice up the tried and tested formula of fly to the left and shoot.
Brightside Games new offering "Zeit²" does just that. Offering control over the flow of time Zeit² manages to add enough of a twist to make it stand out from its piers, though at times the visuals and variety fail to make the most of this innovation.
As far back as Space Invaders shoot um ups have had a loose, unnecessary, story to frame the action around them. Be it just a few throw away lines, or simply the setting that whizzes past the ship; there is some implied purpose to the action. Zeit² does away with any such pretence, relying instead on the promise of gameplay and scores to encourage play.
Zeit² XBLA screenshot #1
The absence of a story takes away nothing from the game itself, but does make the experience feel a little odd, especially when experienced in conjunction with the barren environments of the world that leaves an empty feel to events with no sense of place. It's a strange feeling that at times steels the drive to progress in the absence of friends populating the leader board.
Lack of story aside Zeit² brings a lot to the table. Numerous mechanics litter the game layered on top of the usual avoid/shoot gameplay of similar titles. Most striking among these is the time manipulation, which allows time to be fast forwarded or reversed using the trigger buttons. While the forward power is primarily used just to amass extra points (scores are higher when time is accelerated) the reverse ability introduces a great deal more and is essential to successfully navigate the game.
Zeit² XBLA screenshot #2
A blue shield constantly surrounds the small glowing object that is Zeit²’s main craft. This shield expands or shrinks the more energy is amassed or damage is taken respectively. Killing enemies and collectible health gathers more energy, but being hit or (and this is key) allowing opposition craft to pass reduces it. Thus it quickly becomes essential to master reversing time to drag back on to the screen any enemies who have slipped passed attacks to prevent them draining energy.
To compound the difficulty of mastering this mechanic there are other craft that are only vulnerable when time reversed as well as special shots that function in conjunction with the echo of past ships which remain after time is rewound.
As confusing the time mechanic of Zeit² may sound on paper in practice it quickly becomes second nature. Indeed at times it is almost too useful as opponents become unable to avoid the time controlling shenanigans. It is incredibly enjoyable and is by far the highlight as the game becomes more challenging, offering a good balance of tension and reward.
Zeit² XBLA screenshot #3
Unfortunately the inventiveness displayed in the design of the core system does seem to run out in other areas of the game. Enemy attack patterns’ lack variety and are easily predictable with most choosing direct attacks using their own physical form as a weapon rather than any additional projectiles. With attack patterns so wrote all that is left is to layer on multiple waves of attackers rather than offering new opposition who are challenging in and of themselves (bar the ever escalating but always familiar boss battles).
Also greatly lacking in the creativity department is the visual and audio design. The striking white and blue of the enemies is always set against a marbled background which at best changes colour between levels, offering very little in the way of eye candy. This leads to an overall effect that is more reminiscent of a 90’s music visualise than a modern HD shooter, and does nothing to hide the predictable nature of the enemy craft.
"Zeit²" does bring something new to the shooter format, which is a good thing because without its gimmick it would do little to grab attention. Much like its core mechanic Zeit² seems to have done the shoot um up mould backwards. Coming up with an intriguing and novel gameplay hook, where other games would rely on the ever-increasing spectacle of more powerful weapons.
But having conceived this concept Brightside Games seem to have rested on the laurels when designing the visual elements and opponents faced, leaving it feeling underwhelming despite the fancy mechanics surrounding it.
At 800MS points Zeit² is worth a look if you are familiar with the genre and looking to see a novel twist on it, but for those less versed with shooters there are many others that offer far more variety and value.
+ Interesting core mechanic ...
+ ... which is far more than most shooters
+ A lot to master to get high scores
- Simple enemy attack patterns
- Bland graphics
- Repetitive