Zytron II Review

By – Mike Andre

Remember those arcade games you used to spend all your lunch money on in the hope of getting your name in the highscore list?  If you do, Zytron II is probably up your alley.
Zytron II is the sequel to Kevin Murphy’s original Zytron Megablast, released 2 decades ago for the C64.  The game is a traditional scrolling shoot’em up or shmup, similar to R-Type, where your objective is, as you probably guessed it, to blow everything up and proceed to the next level.

Simple But Good Looking

Visually, the game looks very simple and is a pretty big departure from the more traditional look of the original game. In Zytron II, everything looks somewhat abstracted: very colorful and with lots of particle effects. The space ships, drones and so on are mostly made up of very simple elements, but even if they had actual detail on them it wouldn’t matter because, well, the game plays so fast you’d hardly have time to appreciate any smaller details. Plus the game is pleasant to eye as it is, so personally I think the developer made a good decision when he decided to keep things simple.

The techno-ish soundtrack is one of my favorite things about the game. There are some memorable tracks in there and they fit the game very well, not to mention they do a great job on keeping the adrenaline at high rates.

Frenetic Gameplay, Smooth Controls

The controls feel smooth once you get used to them, and you can play with the keyboard, mouse, gamepad and joystick. While personally I prefer the keyboard+mouse combination, the game plays well either way. The simple graphics made it easier for Kevin Murphy to add all sorts of enemies, from UFOs to turrets, each with their unique behavior and look.

One interesting gameplay element is the inclusion of some drones that are attached to your ship and will fire in the direction you are facing. This can be very useful, especially when you are up against hordes of enemies and they get dangerously close.

The game should keep you entertained for some time as it’s surprisingly long, with 32 well-sized levels plus plenty of achievements to get and if you’re the hardcore type, you probably won’t mind finishing the game more than once so you can get improve your scores.

Zytron II is fast paced, not to say insanely fast paced, and if you’re new to genre, things can get pretty chaotic right in the first levels. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you.
You can get more friends to join the mayhem, as the game has co op multiplayer for up to 4 players.

The boss fights can get pretty intense and are always fun. Unlike any other shmups, they never feel tacked on and at the same they throw some different challenges to the player, keeping things fresh and interesting.

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

Zytron II is a very nice surprise. It’s literally a blast from the past, and I’m almost certain that regardless of whether or not you enjoy shoot’em ups, you’ll almost certainly have lots of fun playing this. If you can get more people to play with, even better. Interestingly, the developer offers a free version of the game (scroll to the bottom) if you accept to promote it, but even if you can’t or don’t want to, at 10£ or around $15 and given the pretty reasonable longevity, it’s more than worth it.

Zytron II Technical Summary:

  • Time Played – around 6 hours
  • Widescreen – No
  • 5.1 Audio – No
  • Bugs – None I found
  • DRM – Serial Code via E-mail
  • Control Scheme –Keyboard, Mouse or Gamepad
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Developer Site
  • Demo – Yes
  • Review Specs – Core 2 Duo, Radeon 4550, 4GB RAM

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4 thoughts on “Zytron II Review

  1. Played the demo using WASD for movement and arrow keys for turning, since I found no obvious way to turn around using the mouse (no “follow the cursor” aiming mode).

    While the game’s aesthetics (including the awesome camera panning around levels) and soundtrack are very nice, I found the actual gameplay a bit lacking. There’s little (none?) strategy involved in pick-up item usage, enemies were lacking in variety and attack patterns were pretty easy to avoid.

    Also, it seems trivially easy to stay alive. Bullets are not dense and you can even shoot them down (!), while there’s ample of health and you can be as careless as you like provided you hunt for the ship pickups.

    A minor technical problem with the demo is audio distortion (digital clipping) when music and effects played simultaneously. I had to drop music to 50% and effects to 30%.

    All in all, as a veteran SHMUP player I found the demo lacking though I can see how how a casual player or novice SHMUP player may find it interesting.

      • Turning that way is too slow and imprecise. For example, you can’t do a quick 180 degree turn to shoot behind you, not to mention you have to eyeball the ship while turning to make sure you stop at the right moment.

        Experience with SHMUPS makes me concentrate my vision at my targets, using peripheral vision to see if projectiles are nearing my ship.

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