Monday, December 7, 2009
The first dual stick independent shooter I have been able to enjoy
Click to download the trial
There have been a few of these games to come out over the years. Hell, I even remember trying to use two controllers myself in that old Atari tron bike game. That experiment didn't go so well but flash forward 20 years and we are presented with Dual Zone. A playable and challenging mind bender of a game.
The learning curve for this type of game is steep, but the developers thankfully begin the game with the simplest of challenges. So simple in fact that at around level 9 I began to wonder if the game was broken. The game doesn't even begin until level 10. This is when the spikers appear, invincible enemies that seem to randomly float across the screen and sometimes maybe not so randomly. They must be avoided. I'm currently on level 18. I've died a lot. If you have played the first few levels and quickly put the game down, I would suggest picking it back up, at least until level 10.
The left stick controls the red ship and the right stick controls the blue ship. The red ship can destroy red ships and the blue ship can destroy blue ships. That is about the only documentation this game comes with. Please be aware that ships can refer to ones you control or ones that the computer is flying. If you run into your other ship, or the tail of one of your ships crosses into the other one, you just lost a life. The difficulty of the game just got cranked up a few notches. Even so, I find the game relaxing.
I am quite enjoying this game, it is pure. Mapping of my chemical movements into electronic action with a minimum of interference. This is the kind of game that we will testing the brain machine interface on, if we haven't begun to do so already. There have been a few moments where I lost myself and became the ships onscreen. Zipping back and forth, dodging what I needed to and destroying what I had to. These moments are fleeting but they are memorable. Usually it is best to take it slow and be precise however.
The game also has a cooperative mode. You can play both the campaign and panic modes in coop. Panic is a survival style game. In coop mode each player controls one ship using only one stick. I did try this mode out with my significant other (a gamer as well).
The game is still pretty difficult even when you only control one ship, for you must rely on your partner to protect you, as well as hope they don't kill you by leaving an exhaust trail in your path. Coop is enjoyable but I prefer the single player experience. A watch of the game's trailer has me awaiting the challenges of the higher levels in the campaign.
Dual Zone is one of the best Xbox Indie Games I have played, and I have played most of them. My only gripe is that we are not given audio volume controls. Normally I have a lot of gripes so this is pretty good. I do like the sound effects but the music can be a little grating. Luckily it is a simple matter to load up some of your tunes and chill out for a bit while you attempt to get into the game.