When I was a young kid, my first-ever console was a Super Nintendo. Boy, I spent a lot of time with it. Games like Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, and R-Type kept me glued to the TV for hours and hours. Every now and then, I used to stroll down to our local video rental store, looking for a new game to play. That’s where I first saw Starfox (Starwing in Europe). The beautiful and badass artwork on the box made me curious about what was to come. This on-rails, low-poly shooter was a huge hit and spawned several sequels. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see where Ex-Zodiac gets its inspiration from. But let’s see if Ex-Zodiac can stand on its own two feet.
Ex-Zodiac a work in progress
First of all, Ex-Zodiac is an early access game, so many things could still change before the full release. With that out of the way, in Ex-Zodiac, our heroine Kyuu travels from planet to planet to defeat an intergalactic organization called Zodiac. She’ll have to dive between buildings, skim the surfaces of ocean planets, and engage in fast-paced highway pursuits to defeat each member. The story unfolds in eight different worlds so far, but there are more to come. The story hasn’t really grabbed my attention yet, mostly because the dialogue happens during intense battles. Characters communicate in a gibberish language, requiring you to read subtitles, which makes it hard to follow what is being told.
Challenge for the high score
Each of the planets you visit has its own biomes. I have traveled and fought my way through a forest level, a large ocean planet, a sandy desert, and a futuristic highway filled with militarized policemen. All of this is presented in a beautiful low-poly art style. Sadly, the main path is pretty straightforward. Unlike Starfox, Ex-Zodiac doesn’t offer different paths you can take. I hope the developer will add this in the future because it would greatly increase the replay-ability. Speaking of replay-ability, each level contains a secret to find that unlocks a bonus level. Killing enemies earns you points, and if you do this quickly, you will gain a multiplier to increase your rank. At the end of the stage, you will receive a ranking based on the amount of points, hits received, enemies killed, and how fast you defeat the boss. This makes it fun to replay a level, but it’s a shame there isn’t a global leaderboard. I would have loved to challenge others for the top spot.
Diverse and fun to play
So, how about the gameplay itself? Considering that Ex-Zodiac is in early access, its gameplay is really solid. Enemies pose a good challenge, but luckily, you have a nice set of abilities to use against them. Before you know it, you’re barrel rolling your way out of danger and responding with a salvo of rockets. If you find yourself in a pinch, there’s always the option to drop a bomb to get out of a tough situation and continue your on-rails shooting. However, not all levels are on rails. The final two levels that are available now give you the option to freely fly your plane around. This was a nice relief from all the on-rails shooting. The bosses are challenging and varied, keeping you interested for more. The music and sounds fit perfectly with the fast pacing of Ex-Zodiac. The soundtrack consists of great up-tempo beats that even get more intense during boss battles. A little side note: if you’re going to play Ex-Zodiac, I recommend using the mouse for aiming, as it seemed to be the most accurate way to achieve higher scores.
Ex-Zodiac leaves you craving for more
I really enjoyed my short time with Ex-Zodiac. Although the game is in early access, its gameplay feels really solid. It captures the spirit of Star Fox but is different enough to stand on its own. The levels and bosses are fun and challenging but not too hard. Hopefully, MNKY will add some leaderboards so you can compete with others. Apart from that, the game leaves me craving for more