Overall Score 84%
Those damned aliens. What is this obsession they have with Earth? Ever since "Space Invaders" in the 1970s there have been legions of mindless drone ships advancing on our unassuming planet, held at bay by a single brave fighter pilot. These days they don't even bother to announce themselves - if they did, it would probably be something like "hello, we're the Zyxxaxions, come to invade Earth." "Do you have an appointment? No? Take a number and join the queue."
This time around, there's no plot to worry about. This is BlastZone 2, a sequel and remake of the original BlastZone that you'd probably only know about if you had some pretty advanced calculators some years back. That doesn't matter right now - there are enemy forces attacking. We don't know who they are or why they're invading. You just have to get out there and blast them in time honoured horizontally scrolling tradition. Who needs a plot? Bring on the carnage!
Default controls are keyboard, with the arrow keys flying your craft and the ZXC keys operating your weapons. Yes, there are three firing keys! One is your standard low power blaster. The second charges up for a more powerful shot, and the third kicks off Hypermode, in which your weapons briefly switch to a rapid-fire blaster, a laser beam and a... well, I'm not sure what to call it, since "wall of firey death" seems inadequate. I just call it "fun". Note that, in early stages, your weapons are limited - it's only as you complete stages that your weapons are fully unleashed.
There are numerous game modes available. The main mission mode sees you fighting your way through a number of fixed stages, taking on and demolishing four end-level bosses to defeat the invasion force. There are a number of difficulty levels available here, with the harder ones unlocked by completing earlier ones. You also have a range of ships to choose from to suit your play style - do you favour a slow, well armoured ship or something light and maneouvrable? Do you sacrifice either (or both) for raw power? Note that the demo version only has the basic all-rounder. If you tire of the missions, or just fancy some target practice, you also have three survival modes to choose from.
Though it largely plays in the standard 2D fashion, this is very much a game in three dimensions. Enemy ships fly into the scene from the distance and from behind the "camera", in essence being above and below the playfield. Watch out when formations fly through this screen - collisions are entirely possible! Ships are fully 3D rendered and movement is smooth and fast paced - I particularly like minor details such as the shuddering of the player ship when firing off a charged blast. Enemy ships turn and swoop as they fly around the screen. Graphically this is a very polished offering. There's the customary range of sound effects, of course, and some suitably energetic background music to keep the tension going.
I won't lie to you - BlastZone 2 is a simple game to learn, but it's going to take practice to get good at it. Enemy waves can stream in from any direction (and I mean ANY direction, including behind, in front, above, below or from the background) and you may not be able to get out of the way quickly enough. Watch your armour! Destroying enemies will often net you powerups, including useful armour repair kits, but sometimes I've found taking too offensive a stance is a good way to be blown to pieces. You are unlikely to get every enemy. You may also find the keyboard controls a little uncomfortable - I started to get an ache in my left arm with the default firing keys. Fortunately the controls can be customised. I only had keyboard controls as an option but I think alternatives are possible - as I have no gamepads or joysticks I was unable to experiment.
The range of ship types (and they look different in game, too) and the multiple survival modes will help to boost BlastZone's longevity. Ultimately it's a simple genre and there's not a vast amount you can do with it; I think this is a good attempt to do as much as is practical. If you like horizontal blasters, this is going to work well for you, and you'll find plenty of variation to keep you entertained for a while.
Lone fighter activated. Thrusters online. Massively overpowered weapons primed. Okay, Zyxxaxions, we're ready for you now...
Keywords: blastzone 2 review, matt edzenga reviews, matt edzenga games, blastzone 2 scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.