Ziggurat (stylized as ZiGGURAT) is an arcade-style survival shoot-em-up for Apple’s iOS. You control a heroic looking sprite armed with a pretty sweet little plasma cannon, which allows you to blast inexorable hordes of one-eyed robo-aliens from atop your titular pyramid (yep, a ziggurat). As the game starts, there are no bones made about the fact that you are going to die. The idea is you hold out as long as you can against the increasing number of baddies coming at you from all sides, as the end of the universe looms.
Hit the jump for the review and a video.
While defending yourself against the invasion, aiming and firing your weapon is the only thing you have to worry about, and it is accomplished using a comfortably slim bar at the bottom of the screen. Swiping back and forth will aim in any direction, and holding down on the screen charges your weapon. Depending on how long you’ve held down, the shot you fire when you release the charge will increase in size. A clever mechanic causes the charge to permanently reduce to a lesser strength after a second or so, meaning that you can’t just keep charging your shots to full. Precise timing will be required to fire your most potent blasts. You’ll need to hone that timing too, because things will get hectic in a hurry if you’re slow to clear the screen of the various nogoodniks that will start to populate your airspace.
There is obviously a large dollop of retro nostalgia that will hit you as soon as you fire up the game, including 16 bit style graphics and a frantically awesome chiptune theme. There is a “classic arcade” feel here, but this game is simple only on the surface. Beneath the point and shoot exterior lies much deeper gameplay that even Ziggurat‘s most successfully addictive mobile gaming cousins sadly lack. Unlike in, say,Jetpack Joyride or Temple Run, where having luck of randomly generated worlds and powerups will enable better high score attempts, Ziggurat is all you, baby. You’ll see your score increase when you start to see the deeper strategy in taking on the all the different types of enemies, from the “red guys” (which, by the way, is the nomenclature provided to them by the game’s expansive stats rundown) who fly at you from the top of the screen, to the behemoth “big guys” who will only go down when after a fair number of direct hits. When you lose (and you will, oh you will), it will be because you weren’t fast enough, accurate enough or didn’t prioritize threats well enough.
For the money, Ziggurat is a solid experience with a lot of longevity, if shooters like this are your kind of thing. Controls are tight, the gameplay is entrancing, and it doesn’t need any of the frilly extras like bonus skins for your character or different backgrounds or other tacked on unlockables/in-app purchases. It’s simple, sure, but it has that “one more game” pull not because of a gimmick, but because of balanced, clever mechanics and the level of polish that is clearly exhibited from the moment you first start exploding those aliens.
This is the first game in a while (Super Mario 3D Land notwithstanding) that has me wanting to pull myself away from the computer and grab my portable device to get sucked back into it. It is $0.99 on the App Store, and it’s honestly a steal at that price for the number of hours you’ll get out of it. Achievements, extensive stat tracking, gameplay that is simple but nuanced, and above all, addictive fun. As far as I can tell, the game is pretty well under the radar (only 710 total players on Game Center as of time of writing), but don’t be surprised if you hear more about this game as word of mouth picks up. As for me, I’ve heard the game does in fact have an “ending” of sorts, so I’m going to see if I can hold out until the end of the world.