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Neo-Nostalgia - Ex-Zodiac Demo Review - Indie Gaming

For the past few months I'd seen clips floating round of a game similar in play style to Lylat Wars (Starfox 64 for international readers). And now finally I'd come across their Kickstarter... which ended 2 days before I found it! DAMN IT!

At least they surpassed their funding goal! The game is being created by the one man wonder team Ben Hickling ( saving for one aspect, the music. Which has been created by the ever talented +TEK! I was lucky enough to get hold of the demo available over on their Kickstarter to test some of the gameplay and I've got to say I loved what I experienced!

Greeted & Treated When you boot up the game you're greeted with a classic SNES era title screen which is very reminiscent of Megaman-X and music that twigs my childhood strings as the first two chords are the same as Lylat Wars' intro screen chime in. Oh yes. I'm in. You had me at the title screen and I haven't even pressed start yet. We are also treated to a little flyby camera pan of the ship we're going to be piloting; The Ultraviolet MK III!

Once you press start you're swooped into the planet selection screen, and the music get's you ready to go. I chose Alura first as it seemed the logical choice, described in Ben's own words Alura is: "A peaceful location, populated with both forests and towering skyscrapers alike. Despite the industrialization of some areas, the inhabitants have a high regard for the environment, choosing to use alternative sources of power where possible."

The level itself is great, it doesn't go on too long and doesn't overwhelm you. Coming from playing legacy titles that inspired this game I felt at home right away however it was still definitely challenging! It felt like a "master quest" mode aimed at players who may have already mastered the older titles and now in their 20s or 30s are sorely needing something a little more testing of their skills (of which now pay the billz). The ship feels snappy as you swoop around enemies and between buildings, I still tilt my ship to the left or right even when I don't need to just to feel like a maverick pilot though! Oh and that boost? OH SO SATISFYING! I did find myself a little confused by the missiles if I'm honest, but on a second play through today I think I realize what's going on. When holding fire to charge your weapon you can lock on to multiple targets (which is a great mechanic! Love this!), when collecting a missile upgrade you can lock on to +1 enemy for each one collected! I initially had thought the missile was a different weapon so found myself looking for a way to use it, but I really really like the addition of this! Not to mention being able to use burst fire by clicking the fire button and holding for a brief second, I feel this makes combat feel a little more skilled than the older rail shooter games that had you clicking like a madman. Scorpion Boss Boi The game includes a boss fight at the end of EVERY LEVEL. I for one LOVE this. I admire the fact that so much extra work will go into this project to ensure that combat against a larger more complex enemy is satisfying. This is a dizzying task considering there will be 12 levels! The first boss I fought was the Scorpion which was a scary fight right away, it's bouncy movements made it feel agile and like it's gonna jump all up on your face like a facehugger at any moment! Thank the gaming gods that doesn't happen! What it does do though is fling it's claws forwards equipped with spinning LAZER BLADES to bring down the wind farms either side of you sending them crashing down onto your ship. Blast those claws and it's tail to bring this environmentally friendly energy hating arachnid down! Level 2: Ignice After completing the first world of Alura and wapping that big old scorpy boi into little shards of low poly detritus I'm ready to see more. Ignice described by Ben is "An uninhabited, beautiful but volatile combination of fire and ice. Ignice may look chilly but don't be fooled, as just below it's surface lies a scorching hot mantle, reaching temperatures of over 1000­°C. Many attempts to tap into the planets resources have been made, but with little success so far..." The start of this world is low poly homage to wonderful mountain tundras and almost reminds me of Hoth. I even found myself swooping through the stone arches hoping for secrets which I presume will be a feature in the full game! Before long we reach chasms with crystal shards jutting sharply through ground and the entrance to the mountain mine. Inside you're bombarded by colossal drills forcing you to swoop uncomfortably close to lava below! Once you exit you're back in the snowy landscape and now see great crystals reaching from the ground which is presumably what the people running the mines are after! Not to mention we can see the aurora borealis (not localized to our kitchens) out in the sky beyond! He's A Snek (or a wurm) The boss on Ignice is a huge mining snake or worm with a big old drill for a face. Which needs plapping. Obviously. It spirals and swirls shooting missiles from its segmented body and bringing down a hail of huge drill segments trying to crush our ship so get swoopy. My all time favourite part of this boss fight is once the segments are all destroyed however. The metal snek rears up opens its segmented head like petals on a biomechanical flower and charges a huge laser to incinerate you. I love the effect of this and I remember fondly having my screen filled with a laser back on N64 games and dashing madly to avoid it, I'm so glad this was included but I wish there was more of it and it went on a little longer! I think at it's core this demo did exactly what was intended. It showed off the brilliant visuals, music and mechanics of this game while leaving me wanting more. Seriously well done Ben, I'm so happy that you've made something this good and even more impressed that you've done it alone. It was great to have you on this weeks show and I'm really glad we got to connect over your project! If you'd like to hear our interview with Ben click the link below AND if you follow the steam link below that you can play that game yourself. Honestly, you won't be disappointed. Our episode with Ben ---> Play Ex-Zodiac here --->

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