Zamarian is a mouse-driven arcade space shooter. Instead of having free movement though, you are stuck moving in a circular motion around a central point. Enemies tend to spawn at the center and spiral out toward you, however, some will spawn outside the circle. Enemies will drop money, health (in the form of shields), and sometimes weapon upgrades. However, all these upgrades can be bought from the store if you have the coin. You can also spend money to buy new ships. There are light, medium, and heavy ships. From what I gathered, the only difference is their price and their health. The heavy ship obviously costs the most and sports the most health.
An interesting mechanic is that items are bought in real-time. There is no pause menu to access the shop. If you are running low on health, quickly buy a new ship while still avoiding incoming attacks. Once a purchased ship is destroyed you’ll go back to the base ship. Of course, when this happens, the game recommends immediately purchasing a new one since the health of the base ship is minimal. So essentially, if you’re quick enough and have the cash, you can just keep buying new lives. This is the recommended thing to spend your money on, as weapon upgrades come along fairly often. But if you’re needing something in a pinch or are just bored with your current gun, you can buy a new one.
Weapons also have health that depletes when you get hit. So you’ll be switching through them pretty regularly. One problem I have with the weapon store is that the names of the weapons aren’t displayed; just tiny pictures. When you’re focusing on everything else, trying to make out what those pictures actually correspond to can be a big pain. Usually, I open up the store, pick something at random, and just kinda go with it.
The UI in general is a little lacking. When enemies spawn in the center of the circle, they’re very tiny and hard to see. It’s not the biggest issue, but with everything else going on it’s hard to tell what exactly is coming at you. This can be said for things you need to collect, as well as for those to avoid. There really isn’t the biggest distinction between collectibles (like money and upgrades) and enemy bullets. They’re all just brightly colored objects flying toward you. There have been many times when a mass of glowing green things are flying toward me, and I go to pick them up, thinking they’re money. In reality, they’re bullets, and I get destroyed. When the screen is that hectic and there are a billion things flying in your direction, there really needs to be a way to distinguish what’s good and bad. In the heat of the moment, it’s harder to make snap decisions because everything is a little more ambiguous than I’d like.
The controls for Zamarian are weird. Literally, all you do is spin around the center point. You can move inward and outward, but that’s it. Aside from opening the stores and buying stuff, there’s no other clicking involved. In fact, your guns fire automatically.
The biggest problem with this game is its sound design. Since the guns are constantly firing, there’s a steady, never-ending “pew-pew-pew” coming from them. This, in addition to the myriad blips and bloops coming from the enemies and pick-ups…all on top of a generic metal soundtrack…leads to an atonal cacophony that makes my ears bleed. It’s literally that bad. I did worse at the game when the sound was on. I couldn’t concentrate on anything with that horrid noise in the background. Luckily this problem is easily solved by turning off all the noises/music and just putting on a nice podcast. Zamarian is an interesting take on the arcade space shooter genre, but with definite problems. Overall though, it’s a nice little experience.
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