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Ziggurat

Ziggurat finds the lead character in a bit of a crisis. Alien freaks have invaded and wiped out the remainder of human life and now they’re launching an endless onslaught, aiming to push humanity to extinction. Atop the ziggurat, tensions flair as the freaks begin ascending the steps and floating inward in waves. Death is the only certain thing. The situation escalates. Equipped only with a pulse-rifle, she engages in that fleeting encounter and while it’s all hopeless, she fights, just to stay alive another moment longer.

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Holding roots in some retro trackball classics – albeit with the less sufficient touchscreen used as a stand-in – Ziggurat provides a special kind of faux-nostalgia. It’s reductive in execution and the combat follows in simple, tried-and-true patterns. Shots can be projected in volleys and straight-shots across the screen and held in for further impact and distance. And that’s where the real mechanical hook comes in. Score a headshot with a sufficiently charged blast and the freak will explode, maybe taking some of its friends with it. Shoot their mid-sections and they’ll go sprawling off-screen. There’s also an assortment of robots with specific movement patterns. It helps to keep things varied and moving but it’s all a bit limited.

Surprisingly it pulls it off with a chaotic grace. Much of the value is owed to the signature retro esthetic. Always sufficient but never superfluous, it locks into the platform’s inherent ease of use in a fine way, providing a better means for interaction than the typically reductive iOS platformers, while also fitting into a more core-oriented niche. The natural symmetry of the ziggurat provides a clear sense for enemy positioning and also feels right for the instance, in the way that the last of our kind is inevitably rooted onto a peak above the clouds and that the species might be extinguished in a brutal fit of glory.

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The most striking and memorable thing, however, is the death screen. Breaking the mountain-top serenity with a halt, everything stands still for a moment and then there’s a jolt of violent red, accompanied by a screech. Something about that abrupt simplicity and full blast of color comes out as especially impactful.

Ziggurat is Missile Command for the iOS generation. It succeeds in matching that arcade simplicity and yet feels designed chiefly around the efficiency of Apple’s portables. So it’s no surprise that, like so many endless running titles, its best experienced in fragments. The only difference is there’s no point running. It’s all pointless anyway, so we might as well tear through some alien freaks before they bring about the collapse of the species. Ziggurat is good, short-ended fun and worth checking out for the fleeting take on humanity’s last stand.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

Gentle persuasion

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