It’s been a while since we’ve played a Star Fox game – 5 years, in fact. And ever since fans got a massive hit of nostalgia from the previously unreleased Star Fox 2, our rose-tinted glasses have been festering, waiting for the chance to “do a barrel roll!” into space-shooting glory. F-Zero fans have had it much worse, I know. But does this new indie release called Ex-Zodiac hit those Peppy Hare highs? Or fall to Landmaster lows? Let’s find out.
Superb Rail-Shooting Action
If there’s one thing this game executes exceptionally well, it’d have to be the flying controls. The button layout is completely customisable and the on-rails shooting feels silky smooth. The control and responsiveness of each vehicle are arguably even slicker than Falco’s cheesy one-liners too. Plus, the classic boost and barrel roll are great for weaving through enemy assaults. Although, not to the point where players can flat out nullify damage. Believe you me, I was still spamming the heck out of barrel rolls regardless because… Well, they obviously look hilarious, but some of the encounters get mighty intense.
It’s not the most difficult game ever, though the sheer number of enemies Ex-Zodiac throws out can be really overwhelming – in a good way, of course! Luckily, the limited utilities at your disposal like the homing missiles and bombs are trickled out at precisely the right times. Players can almost anticipate when the next drops will be, which allows them to strategise when and where to use their temporary power-ups. That’s not to say the primary laser beams are a flaming piece of garbage because they’re definitely no slouch. It rather just goes to show how well this game’s levels are designed, that’s all.
Speaking of levels… Oh-ho boy, they are juicy. Not only are they a feast for our old-school gamer eyes (with a switchable modern/retro filter included) but simply because they’re so much fun to play. Every stage feels incredibly unique aesthetically and design-wise, in conjunction with some totally super-special-awesome boss fights which feature several different attack patterns and strategies. My only grievance is that some enemy fire can feel a little cheap at times. Like once I was shot by an enemy that had clearly been taken down, though it’s nothing too major overall.
The Bridge Between Ex-Zodiac & Star Fox
Similar to the Star Fox games of old, each level features a bonus stage that unlocks after achieving a certain ranking. This is definitely needed, as Ex-Zodiac is as brief in length as the games it was inspired by. There’s nothing wrong with short and sweet 1-2 hour experiences, of course. However, it is worth mentioning, just in case you were expecting a long, space-opera of epic proportions. Funnily enough, that’s probably this game’s weakest point. The story… or lack thereof, I should say.
Look, I’m aware that Star Fox games aren’t going to win any literary plaudits, but at least they had some character. While there are some funny references here and there, the talking heads in Ex-Zodiac are just so forgettable that their bleepy-bloop sounds quickly begin to fall on deaf ears. Thankfully, the music does provide for some catchy, upbeat tunes to bop along with and those 8-bit sound effects really help in slapping players with a big serving of nostalgia.
If you’ve been holding out for any Star Fox-related content or are just a big retro-only gamer, then this title should definitely be on your wishlist. Ex-Zodiac contains all the bells and whistles of Nintendo’s classic rail-shooter, along with some energetic tunes and visual flair that bring the timeless formula into 2022 with gusto. While the character and story presentation are very bare-bonesy, the gameplay of Ex-Zodiac should be even better by the time it leaves Early Access in 2023/4.
Ex-Zodiac is the Star Fox game that fans have been dreaming of. It successfully replicates that beloved retro aesthetic without losing what made the original titles so engaging. Those precise flying controls, varied set-pieces and in-depth boss battles are all here, and the game will supposedly be doubled in length by the time Ex-Zodiac hits it’s full 1.0 launch. While the characters and story aren’t particularly interesting, here’s hoping they can pull it around for the next half of the adventure.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by PixelJAM. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.