Zeit2 Review (Xbox360)

Zeit² (which is pronounced Zeit Squared, for your information) is not your typical side-scrolling shoot em-up. While classics of the genre like the R-Type and Gradius series are known for being hard-as-nails twitch fests, Zeit² opts for a slower, more methodical approach that makes use of a Braid-esque time travel system. On paper this amalgamation of concepts is actually fairly unique though in practice it doesn’t quite mesh together.

At first glance the game’s basics seem nothing special. Your space ship scrolls from left to right as you blast everything possible before eventually taking on some tricky boss encounters. Dig deeper though and it becomes obvious that the game demands more from you than simply having excellent dodging and shooting skills.

Failing to destroy enemies results in a loss of health even if they don’t collide with your ship

As its name suggests (what with Zeit meaning time in German) manipulating the fourth dimension plays a big role in the game. Holding the left trigger allows you to rewind time, allowing you to effectively clone and then fight alongside a shadowy future version of yourself for a few seconds. Not only does this effectively double your firepower for a limited period but you can also use your clone to reflect your projectiles into a wide area attack and initiate a screen-clearing bomb.

Furthermore you can fast forward time which vastly increases your score multiplier. Given that this makes proceedings decidedly more difficult, use of it seems advisable only to hardcore high score runners and even then its only recommendable in short bursts.

Unfortunately, these time mechanics and several of Zeit²’s other unique aspects combine to negatively effect the overall experience.

All told, the game strongly encourages perfectionism. Even if the incoming enemies don’t hit your ship, ones that pass you by still drain some of your health. If you’re going for high scores you’ll need to make doubly sure to shoot and destroy everything to keep your score multiplier at a high level. However, you’ll have to use your basic weapon sparingly since every shot you fire that doesn’t impact an enemy also drains your health.

The challenging boss fights were easily the best parts of the game

Lump in the time travel elements, which require you to monitor and top up your time meter, juggle two versions of yourself and watch out for enemies only destructible in rewound time, and you’ve got a lot to manage.

Obsessive compulsives might find this aspect fun but most will simply find it work. You’ve got to respect the developer for trying to spice up the tried and tested shoot em-up formula, but Zeit² just adds so many complications that the simple yet satisfying core aspects of the genre are almost completely buried.

It’s telling that the game becomes most engaging when it comes closest to its bullet hell brethren. The game’s boss battles in particular hark back to tradition, forcing you to rely primarily on your reaction skills and old school trial-and-error thinking to best it. Beating the rock-hard final boss after a long, gruelling duel was easily the most satisfying moment in the game for me.

The game’s presentation also doesn’t it do itself many favours. While its graphics are serviceable the lack of variety here makes the game feel more monotonous than it should. With the exception of the final world and bonus levels of arcade mode, every stage and every mode features the same murky blue backgrounds and white wireframe enemy design which you’d expect to change between worlds or even the different modes. This isn’t helped by the game’s limited soundtrack which cruelly features only one song that repeats throughout every level.

Making a time clone of yourself becomes essentially as the game quickly begins to throw too many enemies at you for one ship to cope with

One aspect of Zeit² that you can’t criticise is the amount of content on offer. While the main arcade mode is relatively short with only five worlds to play through, there are a further six game types (not counting the tutorial) included here. Most of them are different takes on the standard game play, such as a sudden death endurance mode where you can’t let a single enemy pass you. Add in online leaderboards, in-game challenges to beat and the standard two hundred achievement points to acquire and the game does provide a lot for the price of entry.

But a jam-packed experience underpinned by flawed game play is still a flawed package. You can’t fault start up developer Brightside Games for attempting to breathe new life into the shmup genre but Zeit² has gotten too far away from the enjoyable simplicity of dodging and shooting. It’s a real shame since it comes so close to excelling in several areas and features a few smart design elements here and there. Here’s hoping their next title is a real winner.

Top Game Moment: Ironically, the back-to-basics design of the game’s boss encounters are my personal highlights.

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