"Because sometimes you just wanna blow stuff up." This is the tagline that accompanies Zenix 3D, a game that doesn't concern itself with plot or the quest to destroy the Zenix Empire. You (and possibly your friends as well) simply fly your ship(s) about a vertically scrolling onslaught of enemies and, well, blow stuff up. A horde of ugly alien nasties will swoop down the screen towards you and... well, you probably know the rest.
Zenix 3D is a slightly misleading title. The game itself is not three dimensional - indeed, barely two dimensional as many scrollers like this are - but the various insect and crustacean-like aliens that spin towards you are most certainly 3D-rendered and often quite large. Blast these with an endless stream of missiles (some pickups grant triple shot or more powerful missiles, and you can have both at once) and avoid getting hit too often, or your shield will fail and your single life will end in a blazing inferno.
Jeremy Spiller has made controls for your ship very versatile. You can play with keyboard (the default keys seemingly the arrows and Control to fire) or with the mouse. Joystick options are also present but I have no joystick and therefore could not experiment. I would not be surprised if a gamepad was also an option. Just press the relevant fire button to activate your ship and fly into the door to start. The controls are very simple - move and fire - a return to the olden days when game plot and instructions would fit on a cassette inlay.
That said, some instructions (even to this level) would be nice. There are none ingame and no readmes are installed with the game - all is to be found on the game's website. While the main game is fairly straightforward it is a shame to provide a level construction kit (really!) and no offline instructions on how to use it. Even quitting the constructor is difficult.
Graphics for the aliens are, as mentioned, 3D rendered and a variety of shapes and sizes. That said, they don't seem to animate at all, just spin and glide about the screen. Player ships and missiles seem somewhat flat in comparison to the foe. Sound consists of the usual collection of bangs and missile launches, with a pleasant background track to accompany the mayhem.
You can play any level you wish, including the bonus round (up to six times), in any order. Level selection takes place at the space port, a red-hued oddity featuring a number of floating doors (wooden panelled ones!) that transport you to the levels themselves. There is a door back to the space port at the half way and the end of each level.
Zenix 3D is tough. Enemies move quickly and the screen is often filled with missiles and bugs, making avoidance very difficult. The mid-sized aliens take a lot of blasting to destroy and the larger ones are very nasty. Multiple players can improve your chances (more guns mean faster destruction) but the twist is that you share the score... and the shield. If one ship is destroyed, all die.
As a simple blaster to fill in time, Zenix 3D works well. High scores and game completion are fairly irrelevant - I have no idea if there is any special reward for completing every level and little hope of ever finding out! Of more concern is the lack of any documentation, the limited (and very Windowsesque) settings options and the bizarre "unhandled exception error" my laptop gives on startup (which doesn't seem to affect the game at all).
I found Zenix 3D to be a harmless bit of fun to fill the time but have the sense it is not quite finished, needing a little longer in beta testing to tweak the game balance, replace the Windows menus and certainly providing a basic manual wouldn't go amiss. I am sure a little more polish in these areas will make all the difference.
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