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Zenzizenzic Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . After a drought of quality dual-stick shooters, Zenzizenzic has debuted on Steam just in time to remind us how addictive this genre can be. With a lot of clever gameplay additions and a constantly-changing art style, this first-time project stands out as one of the year's most exciting action games. Rating: 78%
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  • Review Score:

  • B+
After being thoroughly underwhelmed by Skyflower, We Are Doomed and #killallzombies, I was starting to worry that the video game industry had forgotten how to design a compelling dual-stick shooter. But I'm glad I did not give up hope before playing Zenzizenzic, because all it took was a first-time developer from the Netherlands to remind me why I love this style of shoot-em-up.

Don't let the baffling name fool you, Zenzizenzic is a devilishly exciting action game that not only mimics the best dual-stick shooters, but also adds to the long-running formula. Sure, it's the kind of game where you race around the screen dodging bullets and shooting down enemies, but there's more to it than meets the eyes.

Zenzizenzic is split into five stages, each with their own color scheme and distinct personality. Between the different enemy types, stylistic flourishes and patterns, each level feels substantially different. I quickly discovered that I had genuine favorite levels, including a few I didn't mind replaying numerous times on harder difficulties.

The game locks almost everything away from the start, making you work to earn enough points to unlock new levels, modes and weapons. While the grinding may turn off some gamers, I found that this approach gave me incentive to go back and replay old stages and experiment with more challenging settings. This also made me a better player; somebody more prepared for the devastatingly difficult battles that awaited me.

This bullet hell shooter may be challenging, but at least it's fair. The ship's vulnerable core is clearly defined and players can speed up and slow down at the touch of a button. This is a game built around giving you as much control as possible, and it's this kind of precision that makes some of the more over-the-top firefights feel manageable.

Zenzizenzic (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

But even if things get so out of control that you start losing lives, the game is smart about letting the player buy back in. As long as you have enough points, you can purchase an extra life and continue your quest. But this is not always worth doing, and it's important to understand when it's better to start the round over from scratch.

On their own, none of the simple tweaks are enough to evolve the genre. However, there's a strong case to be made that when added together, Zenzizenzic sings with a unique voice. There are a number of great player-friendly additions I would like to see other dual-stick shooters embrace going forward.

For all the praise, not all of the ideas are successful. Beyond the usual levels and bosses, Zenzizenzic also offers a roguelike-style mode that involves a procedurally generated world full of enemies to kill and power-ups to buy. This is an interesting experiment, but it lacked the urgency found in the main game. It's also not as visually interesting, and the slow pacing left me cold.

Zenzizenzic (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The same can be said about the game's numerous bonus rounds. For whatever reason, Zenzizenzic likes to suck gamers away from the action in order to play a series of dull bonus stages. They involve dodging obstacles and fitting in tight spaces, which is nowhere near as exciting as shooting down alien ships. The real problem is that you can't opt out of these monotonous rounds, which is a questionable decision for a game built around replaying stages.

Thankfully, the few issues don't get in the way of this delightful shooter. I'm a big fan of the style and personality, and I can't wait to see what this first-time developer does next. It may not reinvent the genre, but Zenzizenzic has given me faith that people still know how to make addictive dual-stick shooters.
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