There’s something inspirational about Zenzizenzic. Not only was it conceived while its developer Ruud Koorevaar was unemployed, it’s actually his first foray into game development. Whilst tinkering with Unity tutorials he decided to create a simple game, but one with tight mechanics and rewarding gameplay. The result is a frantic twin-stick bullethell shooter that’s as addictive as it is pretty.
On the surface, there isn’t much separating Zenzizenzic from its many peers; it has difficult to master gameplay, a buttload of enemies, and a screen full of bullets, but it has some nice touches of its own, too.
Zenzizenezic evokes an unbridled sense of freedom, allowing players to approach enemies from any angle, and any part of the screen. While moving the ship around it can speed up or slow down with the left or right triggers, allowing players to fine tune their movement at any given second. In an interesting twist speed also dictates certain characteristics of your ship’s weapons. For example, speeding up makes some projectiles fire across the screen much quicker, whereas slower movement has the opposite effect, but also makes some bullets cause more damage as they swell in size.
The choice of weapons on offer elevates Zenzizenzic‘s gameplay and further separates it from its peers. Whilst it’s possible to play the game like any other bullethell shooter, getting to know each of the unlockable weapons and formulating a strategy on how best to use them provides satisfaction and rewards you’ll rarely find elsewhere. Each unlock comes at a set price, which ties into how many points you have scored throughout the game. The great thing about Zenzizenzic is that no matter how difficult things get, and they will get difficult, I always felt like I had made progress towards unlocking something new. I never quite reached that ragequit moment because the game rewarded my valiant efforts.
You’ll need to know the game’s mechanics inside out if you are to stand any chance of completing its five main stages, each of which is packed with weird and wonderful creations out to inflict maximum pain. Enemies swarm in from all sides, often with scores of other, smaller enemies trailing them. The action never lets up, and you’ll be forced to constantly survey the screen for the safest looking areas for your ship. You’ll also need to juggle your health bars and weapon energy bars whilst dodging countless enemies, bullets and laser beams – it’s the type of game where your sphincter might spontaneously tighten up at a moment’s notice.
All of this action is set against a backdrop of geometric shapes, simple sprites and an almost fractal looking overlap of multi-coloured bullets, enemies and backgrounds. There’s real beauty in the game’s simplicity and how its individually simple design elements combine to create something gorgeous to look at. Pair it with Bignic’s eclectic, bass-heavy soundtrack and you’ve got a game that apes its contemporaries but still manages to break off in a direction of its own.