Readers of a certain age might remember pumping quarter after quarter into arcade machines back in the day. Maybe one of those arcade games was the classic shooter known as Zaxxon. Now 30 years later Zaxxon is back as a fast-paced tunnel racer that requires some quick reflexes. It's easy for a reimagining of classic titles to go off the rails, but how does Zaxxon Escape fair? Let's see.
There's not much of a backstory here; you are in a space ship and have to get out of Zaxxon's asteroid city through a series of randomly generated tunnels with an explosion hot on your heels. The ship will rocket along at a good clip, and you have no control over that. All you have to worry about is not running into anything during your escape. Like Beach Buggy Blitz, you simply go until you die, then try to beat that next time.
In these tunnels you will encounter coins as optional pick ups. Sometimes they require that you pull off some risky maneuvers to grab them, but you can use your war chest to buy upgrades that improve your ship. The upgrades show up as bonus items you can grab during the gameplay. Some of them are incredibly useful, too. For example, autopilot rockets you along at a faster rate and avoids all the obstacles along the way. The tractor beam is cool too – it slurps up all the coins in front of you without any maneuvering. The game will also offer to sell you other ships and decals, but these are just aesthetic.
Zaxxon Escape does make use of in-app purchases to move gameplay forward, but it's not terrible. You can buy packages of coins to get more upgrades if you are impatient. I don't feel like this title is unduly pushing me to spend more money, though.
As obstacles come at your ship, you have to rotate the phone to slide through the gaps that open up. This game plays in 360-degrees, so you're going to be flipping your phone around every which way. Notice that I said phone because you don't want to play this on a tablet. Even a lighter device like the Nexus 7 is far too big and awkward to be turning over so quickly.
As you're angling through barriers and avoiding half closed hangar doors, there will also be the occasional junction to contend with. I wasn't sure how to feel about this gameplay mechanic at first, but now that I'm used to the timing I quite like it. Each junction will have one or more red arrows as you approach. When you get close, they turn green and you have to swipe in the direction of one of the arrows. If you're too early, too late, or you swipe to where there isn't a tunnel, the craft will hit the wall. The last control mechanic is a simple tap. This fires your weapons to trigger some doors, and to pick up bonuses.
I think the control scheme, while nothing new, is a good one. There are times I find myself limited by how much my wrist can bend, but this is happening less often as I learn to plan ahead.
Graphics And Performance
The graphics in Zaxxon Escape are detailed, but not too busy. In a slower game it might be too simple, but this isn't the kind of title where you stop to admire the texture resolution. The lines are clean, and there isn't much aliasing. It's easy to spot the upcoming obstacles and figure out what maneuvers you have to make ahead of time.
My only concern with the visuals is that the environment doesn't change much. There are some parts where you seem to be more "inside" the space station than others, but it's all a variation on a theme.
I tested Zaxxon Escape on a Galaxy Nexus, which doesn't really set the world on fire hardware-wise any more. Still, performance was more than adequate. In a game like this, lag will cause you all kinds of issues and probably make you stop playing. Not an issue for me with Zaxxon Escape.
I've been enjoying Zaxxon Escape, but I do worry that it might not be very sticky. The game costs $0.99 up front, and I think that's reasonable. Dropping more money on in-app purchases seems like a bad long-term decision. I feel like I'm finding enough coins to buy some upgrades without the IAPs anyway.
Zaxxon Escape is currently sitting at 3 stars in the Play Store, but don't jump to any conclusions. Many of those reviews come from users that had trouble launching the game when it was first released. It has been updated several times since then to rectify the issues. Zaxxon Escape is definitely worth a look if you like games that you can play for a few minutes at a time.