Ziggurat is a new iOS title from independent developer Action Button Entertainment. It’s available now as a $.99 Universal app from the App Store.
Ziggurat is an extremely simple game that, like some of the most successful and popular iPhone games of all time, tasks the player with one job only: survive as long as possible. Standing atop a pyramid and unable to move, the player is challenged to fend off increasingly chaotic waves of cycloptic alien invaders using a laser gun. Over time, a wider variety of aliens with differing attack patterns appear, culminating in an attack by the aliens’ mothership.
Rather than adopt a simple “virtual joystick” approach for the shooting action, Ziggurat instead includes two different control schemes. The default, known as Precision Mode, simply requires players to slide their finger along the lower portion of the screen to choose the angle of their shot, then release their finger to fire it. An optional “aim guide” line can be switched on to assist with finding the right direction for a shot. Action Button describes this system as being a means to allow the game an easy to understand control system while preventing that age-old problem of touchscreen games — fingers blocking the action.
The alternative control scheme, known as Slingshot Mode, requires players to “pull back” from the on-screen player character, then release to fire. This mechanic has been included to cater to those familiar with slingshot mechanics in other games such as Angry Birds, Squids and Neko.
As the aliens approach, their single eye grows and shrinks in size. Likewise, the player’s energy bolt grows and shrinks prior to firing. Hitting an enemy when both the eye and the energy bolt are at the largest size creates a large explosion which can cause chain reactions. Mastering this mechanic is key to success in the game, particularly when the onslaught becomes more and more intense. There is no score displayed on screen during gameplay, meaning players don’t find out how well they have done until the game has ended. This allows for full concentration on fending off the incoming hordes without the distraction of trying to beat a previous high score.
The game favors a consciously retro aesthetic, featuring pixel-art visuals strongly reminiscent of 16-bit computers and consoles such as the Super NES, and a chiptune soundtrack similar to that which would have been heard on Nintendo’s 8-bit NES console. The developer has also made the game’s soundtrack available for purchase via “pay-what-you-want” music service Bandcamp as an additional revenue stream.
The game’s simplicity means that it is easy for new players to pick up and play, but 16 Game Center leaderboards covering everything from “most kills in a single game” to “longest survival” and “most complete games” provide dedicated players with the means for healthy competition in a variety of categories. The game also supports OpenFeint, meaning that cross-platform competition in the future isn’t out of the question if Action Button decides to produce an Android version. It’s also possible to post top scores to Facebook and Twitter, with achievements and leaderboards encouraging players to do this as much as possible, helping to promote the game — though since the Twitter-themed achievements are called “Spamsquire” and “Spamlord” it’s fair to say that this encouragement comes with a healthy dose of self-deprecation.
Ziggurat is currently ranked at No. 264 in Top Paid Apps, No. 324 in Top Paid iPad Apps, No. 132 in Top Paid Games and No. 160 in Top Paid iPad Games. The game has only been available for a matter of days, however, and has shown strong growth in that short period. With the aid of the game’s inbuilt virality and word of mouth, it’s possible that Ziggurat’s simple gameplay and charmingly retro aesthetic will see some modest success.