Zotrix Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD


We’re living in an age in which retro is the new modern, as far as some gaming genres are concerned at least. Zotrix is an arcade shooter that makes use of this knowledge to a great extent, using the gameplay systems that were enthroned almost forty years ago and empowering them with features we like seeing in most of today’s games. Zotrix thus marries the old and the new in a package that’s easy to get into yet difficult to master.

Zotrix has a story, surprisingly enough. It’s set in a far future in which humanity had already settled on numerous planets in the Sol system, and was generally prosperous in its efforts to colonize it. However, something arrived from the outer space and ravaged the human planetside settlements to the point of destruction. After a brief period of panic, the humanity decided to push back and face the invaders head-on. This is where we jump in, taking control over a fighter-ship commander and his vessel. Players are tasked with flying from one space station to another, defending their designated cargo and/or passengers from the aggressive extra-terrestrials along the way. The exposition is brought about by an introductory cutscene of sorts, as well as by a whole bunch of unskippable monologues of characters nobody will care about. What I’m getting at is that storyline is a mess and shouldn’t be regarded as anything other than a machine that keeps the game somewhat grounded in the given fictional universe – an afterthought to gameplay. As such, it works fine, but it’d be nice to be able to skip the dull and honestly pointless “conversations” when all you want to do is get back into action as soon as possible.

Before getting to the gameplay itself, however, I’d like to comment on the game’s underlying mechanics and the interface used to display that information to the end user. In Zotrix, it’s not all about destroying enemy vessel. Okay, actually, it is, but as you do it you gain resources you can use to buy new fighter-ships, weapons and shield generators. In-between missions, you’ll be faced by a rather overbearing user interface that represents all of the functions of each given space station that are at your disposal. Here you’ll be able to use whatever resources you’ve gained up until that point to invest into your arsenal. There’s about a dozen different resources, including credits, and these are offered as rewards for specific flights from one station to another. It’s a genuinely interesting system, with a fair number of upgrades to choose from, and offers something to look forward to as you punch your opposition into oblivion. The only thing I dislike about this system is that the interface seems needlessly convoluted; it’ll take you a bit to get a firm grasp on it all, and the overabundance of abstract icons surely won’t help you with that.

Having said that, everything becomes crystal-clear once the shooting starts. The vessel is controlled by WASD and mouse, allowing you almost complete control over what’s going on and how. You will get swamped with enemies quickly though, with the difficulty ramping up on the second quest already. This is why you want to stock up on resources and invest in disposable explosives, drones and whatnot, employing them when the going gets tough. Your starter weapon can be upgraded twice by collecting the glowing orbs that appear sometimes on missions, and even though these disappear after being hit several times repeteadly, they’ll be your main source of firepower and collecting them is of utmost importance. Another thing I quite enjoyed was the ability to destroy the enemies’ projectiles mid-flight. This, combined with the fact that no single shot would eve completely take me out, meant that I could maneouvre more freely and interact with the enemy waves as I chose instead of taking the most obvious route. In Zotrix, you make your own movement patterns, provided that you’ve got the firepower to do so. As you progress, the enemies get more numerous and their health pools increase. Being able to bind any item you have to 1-0 numerical keys is extremely helpful, even though you’ll almost certainly only rarely ever use that many different items on a level.

The game’s visuals are great to say the least, clearly pointing out what you want to be firing at and what’s safe to move through. It’s all very evocative of some of the very first shoot ’em up games in the best way possible. The developers managed to make the game look retro without it coming off as cheap or unpolished, and I’d argue that that’s quite an achievement. I would also praise the soundtrack, with it coming off as just intensive enough, but not enough to be deterrent to the focus of the game – combat. That said, as good as the music may be, the weapon firing sound is annoying to hell and back.

All in all, Zotrix comes up as one of the best shoot ’em up games I’ve played in the last couple of years, with a whole load of content to boot. There’s about fifty quests to ramp through from what I can tell, and you can replay the previous ones whenever you see fit. It’s a flexible system that offers a lot of gametime for the players to enjoy, even though things may get slightly repetitive towards the end. If you can contend with the irksome interface, annoying firing sounds and boring disposition, I definitely recommend investing in this game. As a shmup, it’s phenomenal.


NOTE: Dialogues can now be skipped by left-clicking while the pop-up is open. Kudos to devs for implementing the option!