Zaxx-on, Zaxx-off

For one reason or another, a lot of developers have tried to turn classic games into endless runners recently. I noticed it first with Circus Atari (okay, so that one’s more of an endless ascension game) and Pitfall!, but Zaxxon Escape is yet another fine example. It adheres to the (admittedly threadbare) canon of the original, but drops just about everything else. Arcade nuts, this is not the nostalgia boost you’ve been looking for.

For those who never played the original Zaxxon, it was a space shooter released in arcades back in 1982. Players were tasked with flying an aircraft through a fortress, along with shooting down bad guys and avoiding enemy fire. As fun as it was to play, being the first game to feature isometric graphics was its real claim to fame.

Zaxxon Escape picks up where the original ended, with the ship now trying to escape the fortress it once shot to high heaven. This change in goal – along with being on a different platform – has brought with it some serious modifications to the gameplay, and tilting your phone or tablet to fit your ship through narrow corridors is now the main focus. Well, that and gunning down blocked passages and swiping to occasionally change the direction of your ship. Typical endless runner stuff.

Zaxxon Escape

The changes don’t stop there, though. The design of the ship has been altered quite a bit, and the colorful appearance of the original game has been swapped out for something a little more drab and generic. While I could say that this serves as a perfect microcosm of the current obsession with games trying to look gritty, I’ll just say that Zaxxon Escape‘s aesthetic doesn’t do it any favors. It may sound like a nitpick, and Zaxxon wasn’t exactly a gorgeous game to begin with, but it seems peculiar to me that they completely dropped such a recognizable aesthetic.

The game’s tilt controls work fairly well, although I’ve always taken issue with games that force you to rotate your device in a complete circle. It feels awkward, and something along the lines of Super Hexagon‘s control scheme probably would have functioned a lot better. Fortunately, all of the actions that involve touch – shooting and turning corners – feel much better.

As is common of the genre, Zaxxon Escape is home to various upgrades and items. For example, you can improve your ship’s ability to dodge obstacles, as well as increase its speed. There are also single-use items like extra lives and temporary speed boosts. If you find yourself really rolling in the in-game cash, a handful of different ships can also be purchased, though their high price kept me from ever doing so. As such, I’m not entirely sure they offer anything special outside of looking different.

Zaxxon Escape

Unless you fancy yourself a diehard fan of its predecessor, Zaxxon Escape is not a particularly offensive game. It’s a competent enough endless runner, but one that fails to do anything new or different. I wouldn’t go so far as to accuse it of being a quick cash-in on the Zaxxon name, but I will say it feels like one. Short of you being in a ship and shooting at things, it’s bereft of nearly anything from the original. Even if that’s of no concern to you, there are better places to get your endless runner fix.