PEGBJRE: ZEPTON and Purple Chicken Spaceman

ZEPTON is a 2D voxel shoot ’em up made by REZ, a solo indie dev utilizing PICO-8 for this project. It features a ship flying through the sky, armed with some sweet weapons, and needing to survive for as long as possible per the shoot ’em up tradition.

Interestingly, ZEPTON features the camera behind the ship rather than from above, so the uncontrolled thrusters shoot the player ‘in to the monitor’ so to speak and can move the ship around the screen from that angle. This means that a crosshair is imperative to play the game properly, for players need to shoot at enemies that move towards and seemingly become larger. Once the crosshair becomes red, an enemy has fallen in to the sights of the ship and any bullets fired will hit. If bullets are cutting it — enemies do have a decent chunk of health — players can fire a missile instead, which can lock on to enemies if the red crosshair also is locked as well. If feeling that even the missiles are not giving the results, pressing both the missile and bullet button will unleash the true superweapon of the fighter jet; the ©LASER BEAM OF DOOM™. This monstrosity will fire continuously, ripping through enemies until players decide to release the trigger or the spaceship energy goes haywire. To gain more of that energy to continually spam the ©LASER BEAM OF DOOM™ simply acquire the blue bonuses that are scattered throughout, or just grab a red one to obliterate the entire screen. Sometimes simplicity is rewarded best.

ZEPTON isn’t a long game, yet at the same time it is as long as you can make it — it’s a shmup after all, technically it could go on forever if you simply don’t die. Otherwise, it runs smooth and has a lovely aesthetic to accompany its voxel-based artwork. If you love shoot ’em ups and want to add another to your arsenal, then this might be what you are looking for.

♫ Purple Chicken. Purple Chicken SPACEMAN ♪

Purple Chicken Spaceman is a Shoot ’Em Up made by Holmade Games, an indie studio out of Canada with a focus on keeping the ‘retro’ style alive. As such, players will be following a certain Purple Chicken as the world is attacked by a series of terrifying aliens and UFOs and only one little chicken can somehow go in to space and become the saviour for all.

Unlike the title earlier, this is a side scrolling shmup as players will be moving across the screen while looking at the profile of the Space Chicken. The other shakeup is that the goal isn’t necessarily survival for our little avian friend, but instead to destroy a specific amount of UFOs to fight the boss of the area. The counter at the top right shaped similarly to the aliens from Space Invaders is a counter, and every alien defeated lowers the count to the boss’s arrival. This means that the strategy of dodging and survival isn’t as stressed as getting kills; while important so that the run doesn’t end prematurely, it cannot be an entire strategy to simply avoid the enemies flying past, and there are a lot of them. Seriously, the enemies fly thick and fast, with numerous styles and movement patterns on top of the bullets that they fire at the chicken. Getting in to position for the Chicken’s egg bullets can be super dangerous, especially with the sheer volume that can be thrown. Toss in some highly volatile projectiles such as meteors and there are some serious possibilities to just lose lives to random occurrences if the focus splits for just a second. Thankfully there are a few powerful abilities that players can gain that can help keep themselves alive while also destroying their foes; the bomb and the shield. Both these and another life are found in these floating canisters that need to be destroyed, and what they drop is revealed on the canister itself as a rotating image on the front. However, there is one that is not a power up, but a debuff: a cyclical symbol that causes both directional movements to become inverted, and instead of needing players to pick it up it will chase players until it despawns. This hellspawn has been my downfall on a few rounds, forcing evasive maneuvers within the screen thick of bullets and usually leads to compromising positions that one cannot get out of. Spraying the canisters is dangerous, get power ups with caution.

Spanning a half dozen levels, Purple Chicken Spaceman is a retro game in a new shiney coat of paint — there’s little outside of the core gameplay to focus on, with each level containing everything one needs to beat it and move onwards. It can be brutally hard for you who may enjoy dodging over shooting in shoot ’em ups which sounds weirdly contradictory (see: me — I do this). Oh and the soundtrack is about as dorky as possible, full of self references to each level and singing out loud about the chicken, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t ‘slap’ as they’d say. Seriously it rocks out. So if you love retro shmups that are fully aware of how silly they are, then this is definitely one to try out.

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