App Showcase: Zenobia

When I was a little kid, one of the most memorable gaming experiences I ever had was with a game called Blaster Master. For the pitiful uninitiated (meaning too young to know), the game gave you a tank that could scale walls, fly in the air and shoot things. Yet, its most appealing foundation was its exploration elements. Taking cues from Samus Aran’s adventures, Metroid-like progressive exploration was a key instrument in its success. It sucked me in pouring hours on end trying to figure out the locations where a new weapon might reveal a new door to a new level.

It was engulfing. You just had to see what you could find right over that next ledge. What enemies you had to discover in order to progress, and of course, pretty nifty boss battles. They sure don’t make ’em like they used to. Maybe nostalgia glosses over some of the rough edges that those games of yore had, but its also revealing that even those sullied experiences don’t come through in our memories. At least not mine. To me, Blaster Master is a classic.

So it’s no surprise that developer Nate Monster’s Zenobia wakes up those good ‘ol feelings of familiarity. It’s roots firmly grasping at the fibers of Blaster Master’s fabric, making no apologies where it’s foundation comes from. It’s retro gaming at its core.

The game’s premise is somewhat familiar to Blaster Master. You have a tank, and you have to shoot things to survive, but it also comes with a deep land to explore. The maps available expand in all four directions, making exploration a key element of the game. You have also a few upgradable weapons and the option to change out your load out on the fly.

The game wouldn’t be fun if it had unforgivable controls, and luckily, Zenobia has some wonderful virtual input that allows you to move about, jump and shoot without handcuffing your mobility. I always say the best controls are the ones you don’t think about. I do have some issue where the ads are located, as I dislike when ads are represented under a control scheme that forces you to keep your eyes off of them. It’s pretty easy to hit an add that takes you out of the game into a browser.

Luckily, the game supports Mango multitasking, which will save your progress once you make your way back to the game. I understand that this is a limitation of the screen size, and having an ad directly on your field of view, the part of the screen you’ll need the most visual real estate, would have been criminal. It’s the lesser of two evils, and the only way to keep the game free. Although if you prefer your games to be ad free, there is a paid version in the marketplace as well.

A guy has to make a buck somehow.

Rounding out the features, the game does have leaderboards, checkpoints and a way to revisit old boss battles to obtain a higher score. Nicely done.

Overall, you owe it to yourself to pick up Zenobia. It harkens back to the days where things weren’t given to you on a silver platter. This is real work, people, but one that you’ll enjoy doing.