Zeit Squared's clever mechanics combine to create a unique and satisfying shoot-'em-up.
- Core action offers a refreshing twist on the familiar
- Plenty of room to refine your skills
- Great array of gameplay variations.
- Strange control inversion issue
- Bland visual design.
While the secrets of time travel still elude our understanding, reality hasn't stopped this tantalizing concept from appearing in dozens of video games. First-person shooters, role-playing epics, puzzle platformers, and arcade racers have used time manipulation to fuel creative gameplay mechanics from simple do-overs to complex historical changes. In Zeit Squared (written with a superscript "2"), the ability to rewind time briefly is just one of the various mechanics that make this shoot-'em-up uniquely challenging. The typical goals of "shoot everything" and "dodge a million bullets" are downplayed in favor of being frugal with projectiles, choosing how and when to eliminate certain enemies, and boosting your score and destructive power by interacting with your own time shadow. It may take some time to fully grasp all the mechanics at work in Zeit Squared, but once you do, fulfilling the many challenges and striving for leaderboard greatness become an engaging trial. And with plenty of different modes offering distinct twists on the core action, this refreshing and satisfying shoot-'em-up has a lot to offer.
Before getting into what makes Zeit Squared tick, there's one issue that warrants mention. You may fire up the game and find that pushing the analog stick up moves your ship down, and vice versa. With no option to invert controls in the Help & Options menu, this unintuitive switch can be maddening. Fortunately, the issue is easily remedied by calling up the Xbox Guide, going to the Settings menu, and selecting Profile. In your Game Defaults screen, select the Action menu and change your Y-Axis preference from Inverted to Normal. Then reset your system, fire up the game, and fly confidently knowing that up is up once again.
You control your small shining ship as you fly steadily to the right, surrounded by a blue bubble that serves as your shield. The size of this shield is dependent on where your health is on a scale of 0-200 percent; the healthier you are, the bigger your shield. While projectiles only harm you if they hit your actual ship, any enemy that collides with the shield explodes and damages you. You die when your health is depleted, but enemy projectiles and collisions aren't the only way to lose health. Most enemies glow blue, and whenever a glowing enemy flies past you and out of the screen, you lose health. Firing your main gun also drains your health, but killing enemies returns some health to you. Managing the ebb and flow of your health is one of the biggest challenges in Zeit Squared. Letting enemies slip by you and shooting constantly drains your health very quickly, while maneuvering nimbly to target and blast your glowing foes is the best way to keep your health up.
Most of your enemies, with a few notable exceptions, do not actually shoot projectiles. They merely fly at their own pace in the opposite direction of your ship (or straight at your ship, depending on their behavior). Killing them earns you points, and earning a high score is one of the main goals in Zeit Squared. Destroying consecutive enemies increases your score multiplier, but if you let any enemy escape you, your multiplier takes a hit whether they were glowing or not. As you struggle for health and points, you begin to understand the core challenges of Zeit Squared. Moving around the screen and blasting frequently is an effective way to kill enemies, but the health you waste through prolific shooting may or may not be offset by the health you gain from killing enemies and collecting the occasional health power-ups they drop. You only need to kill the glowing enemies to stay healthy, but if you let the non-glowing ones slip by, your score suffers for it. The common shoot-'em-up challenge of dodging everything only crops up when you encounter enemy turrets, mines, or bosses, but these threats appear in less than half of the Arcade mode levels. Instead, your goal is to be quick and accurate enough to destroy your enemies without jettisoning too much health.
While this goal may seem simple, it doesn't take long before your enemies come at you in patterns that strain your maneuverability past its limits. This is where time travel comes into play. You have the ability to rewind time for up to 4.2 seconds--a reserve that regenerates slowly with time and can be replenished with power-ups that enemies drop. You pull the trigger for as long as you would like to rewind time, and when you release it, time resumes. A shadowy version of yourself replays the section you just rewound, and you are free to perform whatever other actions you like. One simple yet effective tactic is to fly to the bottom of the screen and unleash a torrent of projectiles; then, you rewind time, fly to the top of the screen, and fire some more. This allows you to decimate two columns of enemies at opposite sides of the screen that you would otherwise be unable to simultaneously destroy. You can also double up fire on an enemy to destroy it more quickly or let your shadow destroy some baddies while you nab a helpful power-up.
- Downloadable Game