If you enjoy rail shooters like Sega's classic Space Harrier then I have a nifty compilation for you featuring a couple of ExZeus games.
Back in 2007, a highly underrated rail shooter called Counter Force released for Wii. I still own a copy yet I don't even remember where I got it from; probably a bargain bin somewhere. However, it's a very fun game and little did I know at the time, it's actually a port of a 2003 arcade game called ExZeus. Well, it's now back and it brought a friend along for a double pack of arcade shooting mayhem.
Now, these ExZeus games aren't refined experiences. In fact, they're quite chaotic, frantic, and sometimes clunky but that doesn't mean that they're not fun so if you enjoy ridiculous over-the-top arcade games then you'll definitely love playing these action-packed gems. Plus, their polygon-filled visuals really brought me back to the early 2000s and I still find this aesthetic very endearing. Why do indie games primarily emulate 2D pixel classics? How come they don't bring us back to the retro 3D days? I'd like to see more of that but I digress. The music in these games is just awesome with plenty of kickass rocking jams that make blowing up alien invaders all the more thrilling. It's a truly phenomenal experience for anyone who has fond memories of turn-of-the-millennium arcade games.
Let's get to the actual games. The first ExZeus is a straightforward rail shooter where you blast your standard weapon into the screen and can deploy bombs whenever you have any in stock. There is also a lock-on feature that lets you shoot enemies with homing missiles à la RayForce which has its own energy meter and you can unleash a special attack whenever its gauge is full as well. Oh, and you can roll out of harm's way. As you play, you'll amass gold that you can use between levels to extend and refill your meters, etc. It all comes together to make an action-packed game with some awesome boss fights that are exceptionally rewarding to take down.
Meanwhile, ExZeus 2 carries over the gameplay from the first game and ratchets up the action to 11. For starters, it features lengthy levels that have a ton of variety in them as you'll find yourself running around while punching rival robots, speeding through city streets on a motorcycle, and there are even vertical shoot 'em up segments. How cool is that?! The between-level upgrades are expanded, too, to include more powerful armour and weapons and stuff and you can now choose between 3 special attacks whenever you want to deploy one. All of this added variety makes the gameplay impressively more fun as it's jam-packed with exciting moments.
With that in mind; these ExZeus games can be clunky at times. For example, the melee combat in the second game feels disconnected and in both games, it's sometimes hard to tell when projectiles are headed your way. Speaking of which, the camera is always pointed at the action but it's often too close to your robot which annoyingly blocks your view. Why couldn't they make your machine semi-transparent or pull the camera further back? Finally, even though I found these games to be super-fun, I wish that they featured online rankings because chasing high scores in them is the only substantial replay value yet you can't even see how you stack up.
You can keep your AAA games like Far Cry and Grand Theft Auto because even with their ludicrous budgets, they'll never kick as much ass as a good old action-packed rail shooter. Thankfully, ExZeus is one such game that'll rock your socks off and then some.
- + Dense over-the-top arcade action with lots of stand-out sequences
- + Rocking music and delicious polygons
- + Rewarding upgrades and power-ups
- - Some aspects are kind of clunky
- - Camera can be annoying at times
- - No online leaderboards