Zaxxon Returns with an Ordinary Escape

There had never been anything like Zaxxon when it released. At the time, kids considered it the first 3D game, even if it achieved that look through isometric projection. Still, it communicated sophistication, technology and, to an 8-year-old, difficulty.

Sega resurrects its space shooter franchise with Zaxxon Escape but, unfortunately, it's neither a return to the original game, nor anywhere close to groundbreaking. Zaxxon Escape takes the brand into the realm of infinite runners. Really, the only thing similar to the original is the use of the name, and some of the visual themes you see in your obstacles (flying under force fields brought back some memories.)

Rotating your device (I played on an iPhone 4. The game is also available for Android devices) is the game's novel take on the infinite-runner obstacle course. If you see an I-shaped hole dead ahead, rotate right or left 90 degrees and you'll fly on through. X shaped holes require you to angle 45 degrees left or right. I would have preferred more of this type of dodging and less of the turning and shooting the game introduces. Turning is done with a finger-swipe—but it can't be done until an arrow turns green, I guess to keep you from inadvertently flying into a wall. Still it really doesn't matter who codes the thing, there's always a gap between input and execution. So be prepared for the frustration of "I swear I swiped!" when your spacecraft goes blammo. Turning right after the end of a rotation will kill you nearly every time, too.

Zaxxon Escape is a decent-but-not-thrilling endless runner, though I'd prefer to spend my time with something like One Epic Knight, or Pitfall!, mostly because Zaxxon Escape overloads you with visual information at times. It's especially true if you are playing on a phone. On a tablet, it's probably going to give you a better run for the 99 cents of your money.

Yes, there's a marketplace through which you can buy upgrades and boosts and one-off save-your-ass tricks. Shooting or flying over coins is one way to acquire the currency, obviously you may buy it outright yourself. Everyone knows how this works because we've seen it in so many mobile games before.

And that's sort of Zaxxon Escape in a nutshell. Decent, but not great (and it takes a hell of a long time to load, also, just turn off your wireless. The thing really chugs whenever it's trying to access something—such as Apple's infernal GameCenter that no one cares about). And in the manner of Pitfall!, it's not at all related to the game that commanded your attention the first time.

Zaxxon Escape—$.99 [iTunes]

Zaxxon Escape—$.99 [Google Play]