In one line, Zenzizenzic is as hard to pronounce (sensi-sen-sick) as it is to put down!
I’ve never been a big player of Shmups and bullet hells in the past. There’s just something about dodging millions of projectiles that I could never really get into. Zenzizenzic is a twin stick shooter combined with a bullet hell’s worth of ammunition developed by indie developer Ruud Koorevaar and published by Adult Swim Games.
The game supports either keyboard and mouse or a gamepad with both singleplayer and multiplayer gameplay, both of which I found easy to use and understand the control schemes of. You can move in any direction and shoot in any direction which is typical of the twin stick genre, but you can choose to move between a default speed, a slower speed, and a faster speed at the touch of a trigger button as you play. This allows you to easily control your little shielded plane around with ease allowing you to dodge and weave around the level.
It’s this ease of accessibility that immediately had me hooked on the game, each attempt at a level you choose two weapons from a selection of six each with their own unique properties and attack patterns that make some more suitable for certain levels than others. These weapons are unlocked with currency, which you earn by simply playing the game your final score being added to your wallet at the end of the level or your inevitable death.
As you move around the level destroying the vast amount enemies that try to get in your way energy is dropped allowing you to easily use your weapons this results in some really tense moments for me as I dodge projectile after projectile trying to get enough energy to stop myself dying to the swarms that fill the screen.
These swarms are not overwhelming though; as I play through Zenzizenzic more and more it becomes easier to pick up and learn the various patterns the levels present, with enemies moving in easy to understand patterns, and individual enemy weapons acting as you’d expect based on your own variety of guns.
If there’s anything Zenzizenzic achieves it is that it’s not afraid to kill, but allows you to jump back in so quickly that each death is just a lesson learnt, with nothing going to waste. In addition to buying your own weapons you can also spend your accumulated score on further levels (of which there are 5 total) or practice levels which allow you to take on either the bosses or bonus levels individually.
All of this is backed by a fantastic soundtrack by Bignic who also worked on the also fantastic “Spell Team Deathmatch” and “Corporate Lifestyle Simulator” soundtrack creates a frantic, fun to replay experience. The art style is simplistic but very effective, enemies, bullets and powers are represented by easy to recognize 2D shapes, some of which have been put together to form some really cool looking enemy and boss designs.
The environment seems to have been produced using 3D models which mostly stay in the background, sometimes giving you a hint as to what’s coming on screen or what direction an enemy is moving. I thought it looked really cool, almost like a visual representation of a computer with you being the anti-virus and the enemies being the virus.
If you grow bored of the standard mode Zenzizenzic comes with an additional mode called Macro. Inspired by rogue-likes, Macro slightly adjusts the mechanics to create a explorable open world filled with more bullets and more enemies, all of which are out to kill you and make you start again.
During my time with the game I’ve mostly focused on the standard component of the game but the few games I’ve had in Macro have allowed me to practice avoiding projectiles and dealing with enemies in a slightly safer environment all while having the satisfaction of upgrading and tweaking your abilities as you explore.
Though I have yet to playthrough any difficult over Normal, I think I’ll be coming back to Zenzizenzic again and again.
Overall, I’d say Zenzizenzic is a fantastic example of mixing genres to create something fun, accessible but more importantly, still challenging and if Shmups or Twin-Stick shooters are your thing, you should pick it up. Zenzizenzic is now available for at $9.99 on Steam.