Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Zero Age knows that players have already seen plenty of artsy acclaimed indie puzzle games. It even references what has come before, like Fez, Journey, Portal, and most obviously, Monument Valley. However, with these influences, it still offers a bold, beautiful, and brilliant new vision that any serious iPad gaming fan should check out.
Zero Age's visuals and gameplay are both so stunningly well-executed it’s hard to know where to start the praise. Let’s go with the graphics since they're more immediately striking. The game takes place in a hauntingly atmospheric geometric world filled with vast, cubic vistas. It’s like a minimalist robot city that’s either unfinished or long since abandoned. Guiding the hooded hero through these multi-tiered landscapes while soulful piano music plays would still leave an impression even without the puzzles.
Fortunately Zero Age offers some of the most creative and complex 3D puzzles around. Players must get their character to the end of each level. Sometimes that’s as simple as just tapping on the goal, but usually they will have to create a path by manipulating a handful of blocks. Different blocks have markings specifying their rules - some blocks can only move on a horizontal plane, while others are limited to the vertical. However, players can stack cubes on top of each other to move certain blocks in ways they couldn’t before or shield themselves from deadly lasers. Constructing even something as basic as some stairs requires intense levels of spatial thinking.
Where the game starts getting truly mind-bending though is with the beam system. As they progress, players unlock new beam powers that allow them to transform blocks in new ways. Create a new platform with the green beam or summon a vertical liftoff with the yellow beam. When puzzles combine all of these factors they create twisted challenges that may leave players stumped for hours, even when it’s just a matter of shifting two boxes. However, that makes the payoff all the more satisfying. Plus, players can get a better sense of their powers by messing around in the sandbox mode. The only somewhat noteworthy annoyance is that the harsh, dramatic, Escherian framing of the action sometimes gets in the way of the controls. But players can swap camera angles in most levels to get a more strategic view.
What really matters is that Zero Age is sweet eye candy and nourishing brain food all at once. Zero? Please. It’s the total package.