Action & Arcade
When I was asked to review the Escape from Zargnon game I had not heard of it but I was interested to give it a fair chance. Having played games since the 1980′s on different platforms I am always interested to try something new. What I look for in a game to entertain is gameplay that draws you in and keeps you playing.
Ideally a game is easy to learn but hard to master, with a learning curve that is neither too shallow nor too steep. Besides gameplay our eyes and ears also need to be pleased with nice looking graphics and appealing music and sound effects. Lastly the controls need to be intuitive and adequate. When you fail you must blame yourself for making a mistake, and not blame the game for not responding well to your commands. When that happens repeatedly the player becomes frustrated with the game. These are all aspects I take into account when I review a game, and unfortunately Escape from Zargnon doesn’t score very well on these aspects.
Escaping an alien planet
In Escape from Zargnon the player has crash-landed on the alien planet Zargnon. The spaceship is broken and needs to be repaired before the player can take off and leave the planet. You start out with just a stick and you have to fight off snakes with it. Later you will get a laser pistol allowing you to shoot the enemies from some distance. At the beginning and end of every area is a teleporter that brings you to the next area or resurrects you on it in case you died. Along the way you will find red and yellow flowers which, after you have beaten them with your stick, will replenish the energy of your laser pistol and your health.
A side scroller in three directions, more or less
Escape from Zargnon is basically a sideways scrolling platform game, with an added third dimension. While in some games this really adds a layer to the game, like for example Paper Mario on the Nintendo Wii, in Escape from Zargnon this third dimension only makes the game more awkward to play. Even the controls become less responsive as soon as one or more enemies come near, which doesn’t add to the enjoyment of the game. In my opinion this third dimension doesn’t add anything to the gameplay but rather makes it less fun to play. The gameplay didn’t offer much in the way of entertainment either. In the early stages all you do is kill snakes or other aliens with your laser pistol or your stick, replenish your health and energy, and make your way to the next transporter. When I reached some platforms hovering over a lava-stream and had to use the jetpack to jump across, but failed to do so repeatedly because of unresponsive controls, I gave up. The awkward controls and repetitive gameplay don’t make it appealing to keep playing and discover further into the game.
The game uses a 3D engine which uses polygons to render objects instead of flat 2D sprites. When First Person Shooters moved from 2D sprites (Wolvenstein, Doom) to 3D objects rendered in polygons it was a great enhancement. Instead of seeing only one side of a monster that always faced you you could really walk around it and see it from all sides. But in Escape from Zargnon the 3D component is very limited. It doesn’t have a real function. And because the models don’t have many polygons they also don’t look very detailed and appealing.
Sounds and music
The music in the game is not designed for the game specifically but borrowed from another source. The result is one tune that, while not bad overall, will get repeated over and over. Fortunately there is an option in the settings to lower the volume of the music should you become tired of the music. The game sounds are very basic though, so without music it would become boring.
Escape from Zargnon is primarily created as a research tool to see how players interact with the game and what choices they make. If you agree to it your gameplay data will be sent to the university for study. I have however reviewed the game like any other game you could purchase from the Android Market to see if it is worth it to buy, or even try out the free version which only contains chapter 1. Considering the hardly appealing gameplay, the mediocre graphics, the awkward controls and the repetitive music, I would rather spend my money on one of the many other games available that offer so much more FUN. On the other hand, should you have too much time and also wish to help science learn more about human interaction with games and the choices we make while playing, then by all means get Escape from Zargnon and try to make your way off the hostile planet.