Lately, a shift has occurred in the quality of Xbox Live Arcade titles. Originally, the games that popped up on Xbox Live Arcade gravitated toward gimmicky or regurgitations of older titles that were already smashing successes. Lately, however, the trend is big name publishers putting out more original titles of a higher quality that possess real depth in the gameplay and feature list. It became overtly apparent with the Xbox Live Games for Holidays promotion which featured such amazing titles as ilomilo and A World of Keflings, and that very tradition is continued with Ubisoft and Brightside Games’ latest project, Zeit².
The core gameplay is very much like the classic R-Type series, but what separates Zeit² from the rest of the R-Type copycats are the various new directions that the game takes the side-scrolling 2D shooter genre.
As you blast your way through scrolling levels full of floating enemies, you’ll realize one thing that differentiates this game from other 2D shooters: the majority of the enemies don’t directly attack you as they go by. Instead, most enemies will just be content with floating right by you. Why bother to shoot them? Well, aside from the scoring aspect of the game, many of the enemies actually drain you of life as they pass through. In addition to that, every time you kill an enemy, you’ll regain some health of your own, which can prove precious in this incredibly difficult game. Players will need to be very discriminatory with their shots, however, as every shot will drain the player of health. Before you know it, you’ll be constantly fighting to keep within the delicate balance of shooting enough to kill the enemies, but not so much that it will drain you of your life. That’s where the true genius lies in the game design.
The whole game is based around the time traveling mechanic. The time traveling doesn’t just allow you to replay a part you may have messed up on, it creates a shadow version of yourself that will play through the motions that you did as the first time. The time traveling is not just for correcting mistakes you may have made in approaching patterns of enemies. In fact, early on in the arcade mode, you’ll face foes that cannot be shot down unless you have your shadow self fighting alongside you at the time. As you play through a level, you accrue time to travel backwards up to 4.2 seconds at a time, which means you’ll have to use your time wisely.
If you so choose, you can also speed time up. Speeding time up doesn’t carry any gameplay benefits, but it will double your score for the duration of the speed-up. While this time traveling idea could have easily have been a gimmicky power that the player can utilize to simply get ahead, as you progress through the title, it not only becomes a powerful ally, it becomes essential for survival. At first, it feels tacked on and the player might resist using it frequently, but eventually, as the player learns of the advantages and the subtleties of the power, it becomes as natural to the player as shooting enemies.