M.O.Z.O.X. Space Salvager Review—Fun but Simple

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There have been a lot of Minis shooters lately, but each one does something a little bit different. M.O.Z.O.X. Space Salvager from Twisted Dragon Media combines very old school arcade gameplay with early 1990s polygonal graphics.

Gameplay is short and simple, with each level having three parts. First, you are confronted by a few small waves of enemies. This is over surprisingly quickly. Then you fight a boss, which is simply a large ship that shoots a lot of bullets at you. When you kill that, you then have to deal with waves of asteroids.

That actually sounds quite involved written down, but in practice a level takes about a minute (or less) to complete. As you destroy stuff, they drop items. Some are power-ups, special weapons or shield restorers, but most are little blue orbs that seem to just boost your score.

First boss fight

First boss fight

Your ship is responsive but perhaps a bit jerky; it’s hard to make small movements. Your shield can take three hits, and then on the fourth hit, game over. But when you destroy a boss, you get a power-up that restores your shield. So, you can keep on going fairly long if you are good at it.

The other key is picking up weapon power-ups. Bosses are pretty easy if you have a special weapon. They come in three flavors, but the differences are really just graphical, as they all simply do a lot of damage. Maybe a small difference in the area they affect; the laser seems to be pinpoint, and the swirler is somewhat wide, with the missile in between.

There’s only one game mode. When you die, you can continue from the level you died at, but once you quit the game, you have to start over from the beginning. The bosses don’t seem to get much more difficult, nor do the asteroids, but the early enemies get much trickier. They take more shots to kill and start following you around the screen (and shooting at you from behind).

Graphics are a bit murky.

Graphics are a bit murky.

The game keeps track of just your highest score. No high score table, no achievements. There is supposedly a secret code to do something, but either I couldn’t get it to work, or what it does is so subtle I didn’t notice it.

Graphically, it reminds me something of the very early days of 3D computer graphics, fairly simple 3D polygonal models and very small textures on the 3D models. The advantage, though, is that even with a lot on the screen, it runs smoothly. This also lets the view be changed fairly easily, since the artwork doesn’t need to be redone for each angle.

So, this lets you change the view while playing. There are only two, “Classic” and “Action.” Classic views the playing field from above, with your ship shooting toward the right, while Action features a somewhat over-the-shoulder view, with your ship at the bottom of the screen and the other objects moving at you from the top. The latter view makes the game more fun, but it’s trickier to play from, as the playing field stays the same; you just don’t quite see all of it.

Classic view

Classic view

This Action view is what really makes the game unique. However, I think they could have done more with the view, or rather, the view changing. Probably my favorite shooter ever, Vanguard, was notable because the direction you moved in changed as you explored the complex.

While that isn’t applicable here, since it’s in space, not a cavern, I do think they could have utilized the changing of the viewing angle as a gameplay element, even just as an optional mode. Or simply let you change the view by pressing a key while playing, as opposed to going into the options menu. The effect of the view change is really quite cool. It doesn’t simply jump from one to another; it pans through the two camera locations.

The sound consists of some simple sound effects and two songs. The first is the sort of tune you’d hear on an old C-64, and it only plays at the menu. The second is much more modern, a catchy electronic number that plays while you play the game. I’ve found myself humming it more than once.

There's a ship in there somewhere. I think the background graphic is actually on top...

There's a ship in there somewhere. I think the background graphic is actually on top...

If you are looking for something to pick up and play for a few minutes, then it’s worth a look. As I think I said in my review of A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks!, that game really raised the bar both in terms of quality and low price. Compared to that, this game comes up quite a bit short even though it’s a bit more expensive.

But comparing it to the previous competition (The Flying Hamster, Who’s That Flying?!, Ace Armstrong vs. the Alien Scumbags!, Apache Overkill, Earthshield, etc), I think it’s priced fairly for what you get. It’s simpler, but cheaper, and most importantly, fun.

Still, I would have liked to have seen difficulty levels and the ability to continue from the level you last beat when you start a new game.

6.5/10

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Comments

8 Responses to “M.O.Z.O.X. Space Salvager Review—Fun but Simple”
  1. thumbbandit says:

    The game-play shots look very dirty… like they were lifted from a mudy puddle.

  2. JeremyR says:

    Yeah, they aren’t the best, had to grab them from the trailer. But that’s what I meant by the murky comment (in one of the captions).

    They seem to have put a layer of cloud (smog, really) on top. You can see the cloud when you start the game.

    I think you’re supposed to be in a nebula, but they overdid it a bit.

  3. onmode-ky says:

    JeremyR, does the game have auto-fire (I don’t mean like Sky Force)? And if you go with manual rapid fire, how responsive is it?

    Some thoughts from the screenshots:

    - I see there is a score multiplier. How does that work? What’s the max?

    - I see there are at least 7 levels. How many in total (i.e., how long is the game?)?

    - I see they misspelled “shields” and “missile” . . ..

    Regarding the pricing of Minis shooters, I kind of think of it as ASSf2B! being the scrolling shooter for the casual audience, while the hard-core, precision movement fans will have to do their usual and pay more. :)

    I remember Vanguard. One of the very first scrolling shooters (though I didn’t play it in the arcades, only in MAME many years later). That game used Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture theme, probably without permission. I think it was contemporary with Scramble, the predecessor of Gradius.

    Oh, one last question: during the view switch, at what point do your controls switch? I think it would suck to be moving upwards in Classic view and then suddenly find yourself moving towards the incoming enemy shots when the view switched to Action.

  4. volcane says:

    I’ll pick this up when it arrives in the UK. I’m keen to see what the view changing looks like (and I like shooters!) ;-)

  5. JeremyR says:

    If you hold down the firing button, it’s almost as fast as you can get by tapping it. But tapping it you seem to fire a little faster

    The score multiplier works by just shooting stuff and not letting ships get past you. I don’t know how high it can get, 4x is the highest as I’ve had it, but I am not so great at these games.

    As to levels, I think it just keeps on going, but the furthest I got was 10 or 11, I think..

    I’m not sure when the controls change when the view does, to be honest. While it pans through the change it only takes a couple of seconds

  6. TDM_Ish says:

    Thanks for the review JeremyR! We feel it is a very fair and truthful review. I just wanted to answer a couple of questions. I’ve seen on here and discuss some points noted.

    Multipliers: They are purely for score, but other things happen when you get them. They are granted at 10 (2x), 25(3x), 50(4x), 100(10x) consecutive kills. If an enemy gets by you on the screen, then it is reset to 1x. At 2x you are also granted a double shot for your primary weapon. At 4x, you are granted a triple shot. Once you get to the point where you have the triple shot, if you lose it, it will be hard to recover. The key strategy is saving your special weapons.

    When it comes to the rate of fire. Holding down the X button is almost as fast as pressing it rapidly, however this is not the case on the PS3 controller. Apparently you can press it a good bit faster , which makes playing on the PS3 a little easier.

    As for the murky graphics. We were going for a cloudy nebula like effect, but it appears that it is too distracting for players, even more so on the PS3 (which we don’t have to test with). We are debating making an update to address this (and possibly add a high score table).

    Couple other points and tips:
    All bosses except for the variant in level 4 has a weakspot. The one in level 2, requires you to use a certain special weapon or the single shot (that’s the hint: think size).
    Level differences- each level spawns more enemies, and then more asteroids. The boss’s health is also increased each level. Enemies are allowed to spawn sooner, and shoot faster. Also at level 6, you have the possibility of 2 enemies spawning at the same time, at level 8, this increases to possibly 3 spawning at the same time.

    I really didn’t know a good way to explain this in the game, and was hoping for people to figure it out. But with all of the excellent competition out there, I figured I need to spill it, to avoid being overlooked. I’ll likely re-post this on the forums, and on our website.

    Lastly, volcane noticed that I put a hint : L + R + Triangle. If you hold it down, when starting a new game, it will skip to level 5. Now while you may want to have an easier time and multiplier bonus, it does let you get into the heavier action sooner. We also compensate when you start here or replay a level, by stocking up your secondary weapons a good bit. The key to restarting a level is to use your special weapons to get the double shot quickly.

    We hope you give us a shot and enjoy it!

  7. ZaxNeon says:

    Picked this up yesterday, as it’s on sale for a buck fifty. Honestly I like it better than it’s long named competition, which I also bought. Graphics are kind of charming. It seems like a lost 1st gen N64 title. The endless levels give it a huge advantage for old arcade dinosaurs like me. I would like to see the leader board update though for sure.

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