“Another day, another dollar”, goes the well worn saying, but it could just as easily be “another day, another shoot ‘em up from Eastasiasoft”. Yes, the publishers of games for people who like easy Xbox Gamerscore are back, this time with a new shoot ‘em up that has been created by those at Panda Indie Studios. That game? Z-Warp.
You know the deal by now, a retro styled shooty game with minimal story and easy achievements in exchange for a small amount of money. Does Z-Warp bring anything new to the table, or is it a simple case of copy and paste?
The story of Z-Warp is slight and completely superfluous. In the year 21XX (no, I don’t know what year that is either) a spaceship was created that was capable of warping to a new and exciting destination in space and time. On its maiden voyage, it vanished. Now, as we are the best pilot in the Z-Division (I guess that the A-List pilots were busy?), we have to take an experimental ship and go on a mission to retrieve the black box from the vanished ship. The scene is set for some blasting action.
As is usual for these games, Z-Warp is retro in presentation, looking like something that has warped straight out of the NES golden age of shoot ‘em ups. The action is based on a vertically scrolling screen, and comes with the usual kind of set up: we have a ship, we have weapons, and we have enemies. Let’s bring the last two of those objects into collision with each other…
The design of the ship, the enemies and above all, the bosses, are all pretty simple, and while the levels have names like “The Heart” and “The Stomach”, the backdrops are fairly bland and generic. However, given how busy the screens of Z-Warp can get with bullets, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sound wise it is also business as usual, with laser shooty noises, bomb explosions and the obligatory siren sound effect when a boss approaches all being present and correct. All in all, there’s nothing to object to as far as the presentation goes.
Now, a game like this lives and dies (if you’ll pardon the pun) on the shooting action, and Z-Warp is familiar there – it has some shooting, some flying and an interesting bomb mechanic that ensures it is capable of standing out from the rest.
Taking the bomb first of all, and Z-Warp actually differs from every other game in that the super smart bomb attack that destroys things on the screen, is basically unlimited. After you use it, it begins to charge, and if you don’t use it for a period of time, it will gain “Killer” status; when you do detonate it, it will kill everything in its radius (except a boss). If you use it before this full charge, it will still go off, but will do just enough damage to negate any bullets that are coming your way. As you can imagine, this comes in very useful in the boss fights, as you can blast a hole in their bullet pattern, exploit it to keep shooting, and then let it charge for the next screen filling wave of destruction. Rinse and repeat and the bosses will go down, no problem.
Well, I say no problem, but I feel like someone needs to show the Z-Warp developers the dictionary definition of the word “Easy” as even on so-called easy difficulty, this is absolutely brutal and very difficult indeed. After completing Elden Ring I thought I was ready for anything, but the hardcore difficulty of Z-Warp requires the reflexes of fly which has drunk a can of Red Bull. It’s a game which will punish any little mistake.
The rest of the shooting action is as you’d expect – if you fire continually, the ship flies slower, so tapping the fire button is the way to maintain full manoeuvrability. Dodging all of the bullets is clearly impossible so bomb usage is mandatory, and in a neat little trick, a bomb explosion will also pick up any power-ups in its radius. Getting to the boss at the end of the stage feels like a real achievement, and taking them out even more so. With only five stages to go at, some of the achievements in Z-Warp, like defeating fifteen bosses, will take multiple runs. Otherwise the achievement list is, as expected – pretty straightforward.
Z-Warp is pretty much a cookie cutter type of shoot ‘em up with a couple of features that make it stand out. One is the challenge – this is a hard game, and it is nice to see an Eastasiasoft title that doesn’t just roll over and hand you all the achievements. The second is the bomb mechanic which adds a touch of strategy to the shooting action. While there is nothing revolutionary in Z-Warp, it does enough to allow a recommendation, especially if you like a shoot ‘em up or are looking for a challenge. With a choice between Story mode and Endless mode to try out, there is a bit of content to have a go at too.
Z-Warp is on the Xbox Store – optimised for Xbox Series X|S