Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Zone Warrior


Pesky aliens are once again giving us Earthlings lots of grief. We fought them off but they managed to pinch a time machine and are now using this to alter history and wreak havoc by taking crucial hostages from each period in an attempt to halt their influence. From the invention of the wheel in prehistoric times to England's King Arthur uniting Britain and where would any of us be today without the technical wizardry of Japan... So it's our job to travel these "zones" to rescue them all and kill each bad dude that gets in our way. It's time to lock and load!

Zone Warrior is a horizontally scrolling platformer that reminds me of Psygnosis' Baal in looks and with more than a hint of Turrican style action. Each zone is a labyrinth of large rooms interconnected by a series of doorways, to even more rooms, and there is a total of five time zones which need to be saved from the dreaded aliens:
  • Prehistoric - I really enjoyed this zone because it introduces you nicely into the gameplay style plus there are lots of power-ups and strong map designs compared to most other levels. I also thought the graphics were the best here with great use of the palette.
  • Egyptian - This is is little disappointing for me because it's basically more of the same design but with a different graphics. However, I found it to be a lot harder and rather frustrating instead of anything close to an enjoyable challenge...
  • Medieval - Saving the medieval Britons from their alien fate is a brilliant level and deffinitely on par with the Prehistoric Zone. I must admit, the music here is so gorgeous!
  • Japanese - I would rate this as the best level of all because it is really challenging, with some great mechanics. Unlike the finicky Egyptian Zone, I found it tough but without the frustration. And the chipmusic is out of this world!!
  • Holocaust - Sadly I didn't care for this zone... Very frustrating and ultimately annoying!
Travelling through most zones is a neat experience with constant action to keep your trigger finger happy. During this onslaught, look for hostages to free and a key for a final battle before you can progress onto the next zone. Each of these periods has its own specific nasties to contend with and some cannot be killed so need to be avoided, like the Venus flytraps and sharp spikes. However, most have legs or teeth so have your trusty Turrican-inspired weapon at the ready. This is a rapid firing gun which performs very well and can even be upgraded with a much wider spread. Also, the spacebar is used to cycle through any extra weapons you may have picked up like bombs and mines.

The trouble with Zone Warrior is that it's too easy to lose your bearings. The levels are absolutely massive and wandering from room to room is quite overwhelming due to the lack of any distinctive visuals, so each location soon begins to look and feel the same. Thankfully, our little zone warrior can collect pieces of a map to help prevent him getting lost but I personally thought this was poorly implemented and quite limiting, which is a shame.

The visuals aren't the best I've seen from my lovely Atari ST but the scrolling is good and responsive to our hero's movements which is essential to a running shoot 'em up. The backdrops are nice but could have made better use of the palette for things like destructible blocks. Most sprites are well drawn and detailed, especially the stripey dinos from the Prehistoric Zone. Overall, the Medieval and Japanese zones look the best, I thought.

Audio is a blast throughout with good sound effects but it is the music which steals the show thanks to an array of incredible chiptunes, by Barry Leitch.

Being a Zone Warrior is a cool job and we travel to some interesting places which are mostly great levels stuffed with frantic action. However, I fear the levels are far too large and I soon began to feel lost in the slog of it all. Although I did enjoy running and gunning down the all the baddies - until I got lost or bored. A good game but no Turrican!

LINKS

 - Sadly, there is no hard drive installable game but Stonish has the floppy disk with Fuzion #80 :-)
 - I recorded a little video of the first level and Stefan Lindberg's video for all chiptunes lovers!
 - Click the GEM green arrow below to hear my favourite tune...