App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound Rating:
User Interface Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
Z The Game (title lengthened because the App Store doesn't allow single letter names) uses a team-based node control mode that's been rather popular in shooters lately, only this one's been around a lot longer and isn't actually a shooter. Yes, in case it wasn't obvious from the screen shots, Z The Game is a strategy game. A very fast-paced, arcade-like strategy game.
A lot of the typical unit micromanagement found in similar titles (both old and new) is absent. Grunts and other foot soldiers are built automatically, without the need for resources and units will automatically interact with objects within a certain vicinity, so a group of grunts can be pointed towards a flag/vehicle and will capture either/both on their own. Similarly, factories will churn out forces every several seconds (or minutes) with zero instruction. Players can adjust what's being produced, which is typically two of three unit types per structure, but they don't have to bother with "paying" for them or setting rally points.
There's some amount of contention in a single match, but more often than not utter annihilation and domination are required for success. If the AI can sneak in and take enough of the map, there's practically no other option but to lose. Or to restart. Similar tactics can work in the player's favor, but since human beings can't process as fast as computers it requires a heck of a lot of diligence. I had to learn the hard way about how the mini-map is essential to spotting and reacting to encroaching enemy forces.
It can be frustrating at times when getting completely overwhelmed, but it's a very fun little strategy game. The older PC visuals are clean and stylized enough that they feel right at home here, and the little details like fish jumping out of the water and grunts shooting down birds as they fly overhead bring a lot of personality to what could have been drab, lifeless environments. The only downside to this port is that the interface isn't quite up to snuff. Directly selecting a structure can be spotty, requiring a tap of the "structures" button at the bottom of the screen instead. In addition, sometimes the menu buttons don't respond on the first press, which is annoying but passable.
By far the biggest problem I have with the interface is the way a unit is deselected after being given an order. Telling a group of grunts to move to a spot, then deciding they'd be better off in a slightly different location means lots of scrolling and re-selecting. I think keeping units selected and simply letting players deselect them manually would've been a better option.
Control issues aside, Z The Game is still a lot of strategic fun. The fast-paced nature of each level fits well with the on-the-go style most iOS users are used to and it practically feels like Z was originally designed with the platform in mind. Anyone who enjoys PC strategy games should find plenty to love here.