Now here is a game that makes you say "ZOMG LASERS!" — the mark of a great shmup. Zeta Flow, from Matthew Dirks, who has graced our previous competitions with Jelly Fusion and Colour Connect is quite a shmup indeed. In Zeta Flow, you control an innocent little turret gun ship as you fight off giant mechanical enemies.
Each level pits you against one evil ship, getting progressively bigger and badder from level to level. Moving is simple, just move the mouse. Shooting is simpler: hold down the mouse button. Aiming can be done automatically or manually (for "experts only").
Enemies are constructed of different parts (i.e., building blocks and weapons) attached to a core. In order to beat a level, you must destroy the core. You can think of it like the top bubble in Bust A Move: If you destroy the core, all of the other parts below it will fall off and you will beat the level. As in Bust A Move, you can also lop off lower parts of a chain. Likewise, you can cut off segments by destroying the part that connects to the core. While the core can shoot only a few bullets, other weapons will aim to thwart your advance, such as turret guns, homing missiles, lasers, and force fields.
Also included in the game are optional keyboard controls, which can be mapped as desired. In fact the entire game can be navigated with just a keyboard. Good news for all you guys who don't own mice. But wait, theres more...behind door number three...IT'S A NEW CAR!! (and by that I mean level editor!) The best part about the level editor is that it lets you see the way the parts of the ships are connected.
Analysis: This is a fun game. Looks great (clean, minimalistic), sounds great (the shooting noise is very satisfying), and most importantly, plays great. While the game is a bit short and a bit easy at first glance, both of these problems are addressed by the inclusion of the level editor. You can also play levels designed by other players in the level gallery, which provides a possibly infinite supply of levels as long as there remains interest in the game. Also, the two different aiming schemes provide two different difficulty levels, thus increasing the replay value of the game as well.
Also, advanced players may develop a certain strategy based on their individual playing style. For instance, if you are a good shooter, you may want to pick off all of the weapons and then have an easy battle. On the other hand, if you are good at dodging, you might try to take out the core early on while avoiding all the bullets and lasers. Better yet, you can combine both styles. A quick glance at the level editor will enable you to find out which parts of the enemy are crucial, so you can take them out first (however this will send you back to the start of the game, so on second thought, maybe don't do that).
Maybe the worst part of the game is having to sit through the advertisements after some of the levels. But that's a minor complaint considering the game is free to play. So go play it and support Matthew Dirks so that he can create even more fantastic games like this. Watch out for the lasers!
Jay - As many of you have indicated in the comments, yes, this game is heavily influenced by Warning Forever, a downloadable game for Windows we reviewed here last year. Matthew is looking for some constructive criticism for his efforts here with Zeta Flow, in creating a similar game with Flash. Cheers!