Sunday, June 14, 2015

Vitamin Z (PS Vita)

Like the 'World War Z' flick, and the 'Day Z' survival horror game Namazu Studio's 'Vitamin Z' takes the zombie genre to an entirely different level. The game, which is free to play, and could easily be described as 'Dexter's Labortory' meets 'Attack of the Killer Tomatoes' utilizes a simple arcade style shoot'em up formula to challenge the gamer in a score based fashion. In 'Vitamin Z' you'll descend down a laboratory elevator via a platform as you kill off waves of living dead veggies, and fruits for their internal fluids. It's these fluids (aka, Vitamin Z) that boost the scientific protagonist's weaponry, and gives her the ability to conduct other ungodly experiments on god knows what? While the game is "free-to-play" micro-transactions do creep in like some ghastly apparition, but in doing so doesn't really hinder non-paying players from earning the accompanying trophies nor does it keep said players from progressing deeper into the laboratory depths. Sure paying real world money for in-game currency will give you a boost in the form of extra lives, and shields, but playing the game without them is manageable regardless. You simply have to put in more effort to be the best.

Through a rather impressive short cartoon, the likes of which mimics 'Dexter's Laboratory', or other Saturday morning animations we find out that the female scientist (who looks as if she's been ripped from Disney's "The Incredibles") playing the leading role has haphazardly stumbled upon a new concoction that comes from the innards of the living dead veggies, and fruits she has brought to half-life. In a eureka moment this mad scientist of sorts realizes that her weapons, and gadgetry can be enhanced with the newly discovered 'Vitamin Z', and continues creating these zombie edibles in order to further test her hypothesis. This is of course where you, as the gamer step in.

In 'Vitamin Z' you will be lowered floor by floor via a pneumatic elevator platform into a small circular laboratory arena where waves of undead fruits, and veggies swarm in to kill you off. To ward off the offending grocery ghouls you have a rotating, and constantly firing turret which sits dead center of the elevator platform with which to dispatch the food freaks to the frozen foods section of the afterlife. With this turret you'll blast the fool out of the approaching zombified food items building up energy through the Vitamin Z that spills forth from their rotten carcasses. Some of the fiendish fruits, and vegetables will also drop power-ups in the form of life refills, score multipliers, weapon enhancers, and special weapons which can be used to wipe out waves of incoming baddies, and continue forth into the depths of the protagonist's stacked laboratory building. Along with the turret's functionality you'll also find the the platform itself provides a means to clear away any zombie creations that get too close for comfort. By pressing "X" the platform will raise, and quickly slam down scattering anything that's upon it while damaging said enemies in the process. Of course the appropriate amount of meter must be built in order to use the platform though.

For those of you finding that the simple plasma fire from the provided turret isn't enough you'll be glad to know that you can build up charge blasts through kills that will in turn blast away entire sections of incoming enemies. This along with special weapon power-ups like the freeze ray will help you survive the waves of enemies while continuing deeper into the depths of the laboratory. Each floor in the laboratory requires that you survive a certain amount of waves while killing off every mutated fruit, and vegetable that appears. Some fruits, and veggies will be easier to kill off while others are increasingly more difficult to dispatch. Deciding which enemies to kill off first, and which to deal with later is important to overcoming the odds.

As far as in-game currency goes you can either pay real money to get boosts in order to better your chances of survival, or you can replay the game over, and over again to earn "Z". The upgrades, which cost a specific amount of "Z" include an extra life at the 5,000 mark, and a single use shield at the 750 mark. Earning "Z" in-game is done by simply shooting the capsules that drop from downed enemies. From experience it doesn't take too long to accumulate enough "Z" for a shield, but in buying, and using the shield I can honestly say it was a waste as it did nothing much in preventing damage. The extra life might come in hand though as it revives you after your health bar has been fully depleted giving you a chance to make it deeper into the depths of the laboratory. Do I think the micro-transactions kill the game's functionality? Not really. I've made it to the second floor, and could see myself making it deeper simply because there are health refill power-ups that are dropped. The "Upgrades" are good to have, but they are not necessary. Supposing some poor sap was willing to stock up on extra lives though I could see the leaderboard rankings becoming a problem as the paying customer would always be on top while the non-paying customer would be at a distinct disadvantage. I'm not entirely sure about how many lives you can stock up, but if the upgrades section is any indication you'll probably be limited to only one extra life at a time. If this is the case then I don't see micro-transactions being an issue at all.

Graphics-wise 'Vitamin Z' is a very polished, and impressive 3D shmup. Everything from the intro cartoon to the actual character, and environmental designs look impressive. The main protagonist, in-game looks like a Tim Burton creation while the re-animated fruits, and veggies look like they were derived from the old 'Attack of the Killer Tomatoes' cartoon. Functionally the game is also rather impressive as well. The in-game mechanics work without a hitch, and there are no glitches, or gameplay issues to speak of. I personally liked the game, and feel that as a free-to-play experience the game isn't bad at all. The small file-size will also lessen the burden on your PS Vita memory card which is a huge plus in itself. If you have not tried this game yet, and are in need of a simple time waster experience, or a proper score based shmup challenge I strongly suggest you do so. There's nothing to lose, and as I said before the micro-transactions do little to nothing to harm the game's intended experience.

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