By Spencer . February 20, 2012 . 6:02pm
Tim Rogers made a name for himself through gonzo journalism and tangential reviews on Action Button (dot net). Now, Rogers is sitting at the other side of the table as an indie iPhone developer with ZiGGURAT.
You play as the last human on Earth in ZiGGURAT, but there’s no time to talk about the back story because one-eyed alien freaks are hopping up the titular stone ziggurat you’re trying to defend. ZiGGURAT looks like this when you start…
… and thirty seconds later it’s swarming with aliens.
Don’t bother with dodge rolls because you are cemented to the pyramid. Fortunately, you have an unlimited supply of laser gun ammo. ZiGGURAT uses touch screen controls for shooting. You can aim by sliding a finger left or right, which changes the angle of the gun. Lift your finger and humanity’s last warrior fires a green orb. The size, distance, and power of the blast depends on how long your finger is on the screen, but unlike Mega Man X you can’t charge a fully powered shot forever. ZiGGURAT has a sweet spot where the laser is at maximum power before overcharging occurs and the green sphere’s destructive power is blunted. It feels like this was designed to make players think about timing shots instead of simply holding a charge shot and waiting for aliens to close in. Although, you can make a "bullet rain shield" by rapidly tapping left or right on the screen. This technique makes a small shower of green orbs that can protect you from nearby aliens if you tap fast enough. You can also bounce bullets off the pyramid or dribble down weak shots like a laser fountain.
The laser fountain technique works well against yellow alien freaks that creep up the tower. You still need to launch bullets at the other (dozen) aliens jumping all over the screen and the occasional giant alien takes multiple fully charged shots to defeat. Just to make sure players are on their toes, ZiGGURAT has fast moving red aliens that dive into players. Some red aliens are protected by shields and players only have a split second to take them down before biting the big one. Eventually, the aliens will overwhelm you and a single touch or bullet will erase humans from the world. However, the goal isn’t to "win" it’s to kill as many aliens as you can before you die. Chiptune rock riffs play in the background while you’re fighting to live another minute or two.
ZiGGURAT gets more frantic as you play it, somewhat akin to a Cave shooter… but with hopping aliens instead of bullets. Like ’80s arcade games, ZiGGURAT is all about your score. The game supports leaderboards plus has a detailed stat list that records your hit percentage and number of headshots.
I normally play iPhone games as a distraction while waiting in line. That’s how I started to play ZiGGURAT, but as my skill increased I started to play ZiGGURAT at home during commercials and eventually focused on it to try to beat my high score. It’s addictive and I think that’s partially because I felt like I could do better next time. Even though you’re doomed, ZiGGURAT gently increases the difficulty as you’re playing so the challenge is manageable. Well, I guess that’s because I haven’t reached the "Archenemy."
Rogers said in an e-mail there is a giant purple enemy freak, which may be "the hardest enemy to kill in the history of action games." The first player in the world to defeat the Big Purple Freak will win free Action Button Entertainment games for life. I hope a Siliconera reader takes him down so we can add that to our list of community achievements.
ZiGGURAT is available now for $0.99 cents on iTunes.