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Ziggurat

09 Dec 2013

Ziggurat game review

Ziggurat is different from almost all other iPhone games. It looks familiar and simple to start with, though. You’re stood at the top of a ziggurat – a stepped, Aztec-style pyramid – and you have to shoot down marauding aliens until they eventually win.

And they will always win. So far so samey, until you actually start playing Ziggurat. The difference is in the fine details, and they do make a big difference. For a start, there are no action buttons displayed on screen, and there’s no score visible until the end of a game.

For a start, there are no action buttons displayed on screen, and there’s no score visible until the end of a game. You are lost, effectively. You are the last human on Earth and you’re determined to take out as many of the invading aliens as you can before bowing out yourself. You have a plasma ball cannon that you fire – and that’s it. Or is it?

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Ziggurat screenshots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I can understand people’s enthusiasm for games like Canabalt and Jetpack Joyride, I just can’t really get into them myself. Many iPhone games like these superficially look like the classic 1980s arcade games they’re based on, but they often lack their depth.

When you first start playing Ziggurat you’ll find it weird and clumsy until you figure out how the explosions work and get in tune with the game’s rhythms. Some of the aliens climb up your pyramid, some jump and some float, but they all expand, deflate and blow up at the same time.
If just one alien touches you, you’re dead. That’s it. Game over. The way your cannon ball plasma blaster works is where the game really shines and you really get into the game’s strategy. You slide your finger horizontally across the bottom of the screen to line up a shot. The longer you’re touching the screen, the more powerful your shot will be, and then you just lift your finger from the screen to discharge the glowing green ball of energy.

The artwork in this game isn’t anything to write home about, but one nice touch is that the sun sets and the moon rises as you play. This is the only way you can chart your progress – if the moon looks higher than it ever did, you’re doing better than before. This makes your death seem all the more tragic.

The controls in Ziggurat make it fun and engaging. You never leave the top of your pyramid, and you control your gun by swiping along the bottom of the screen, which leaves the rest of the screen free and unobstructed. The gun’s mechanics are unusual, too. If you hold down your finger it charges the gun up, then you can use rapid fire to drop small explosive pellets all around you. You hold the gun for one second to fire a plasma ball across the screen and for three seconds to send an explosive shot. Just to make life difficult, your gun loses power after four seconds, so you need to hit out at just the right moment if you want to kill more aliens than you did last time round.

All in all, Ziggurat is a well composed antidote to the current round of generatively-based iPhone games and I enjoyed it immensely. 

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Download Ziggurat from iTunes

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