Review: ZiQ

ZiQ Be Nimble

A runner game on PC? Typically this type of game is encountered on mobile platforms, but here’s one for the casual PC crowd. ZiQ ($9.99, Steam PC/Mac available now, Switch coming soon), by Midnight Sea Studios and published by 3D Realms, is a pretty standard entry into its genre: You run down a seemingly never-ending corridor with three lanes and your job is to run as far as you can while gathering objects to increase your score. It’s honestly been a long time since I’ve played a game where the main goal was getting a high score, so this was an interesting change of pace. As mentioned, Typically these games are relegated to mobile platforms, and they usually have pay-to-win get-higher-scores micro-transaction mechanics. To my delight, this game does not havethat, opting for the tried and tested pay-one-price format (which to some extent preserves the integrity of the high score list). But is the game worth that price? Let’s dig a little deeper.

ZiQ be Quick

Like most if not all runner games, ZiQ is meant to be very simple to pick up and play – just steer between the three lanes to avoid obstacles. However, you’ll quickly discover that getting farther by itself doesn’t count for much, as you get zero points for just running. You have to collect the buckyball-looking things along the sides of the course by pressing a button while lined up with them, but it’s not quite that simple, because you are given a sequence of colors that are shown at the top of the screen and you must match those colors to complete the sequences and build up your score and multiplier. This makes the game extremely challenging on multiple levels because not only do you have to avoid crashing, falling into acid pits, and match the polarity (color) of various obstacles, but you have to do it all while also matching the sequence colors to collect the buckyballs (that’s what they look like and that’s what I’m calling them!). This proved to be both frustrating and pretty fun at the same time.

While the game has stages (and possibly an end?), it is very difficult, and I never got to stage 7 after hours of play. That appears to be the last one, or at least the last one there are achievements for. So really, you have two objectives in one: Get a high score and get through each stage. Keep in mind that this game is procedurally generated; the stages won’t be exactly the same every time but each stage introduces new patterns and obstacles.  You may be tempted to ignore the balls and points and just run through the stages to get better at them, and that’s not a terrible idea, but completing several sequences gives you the ability to destroy polarity obstacles if you run into them without matching their color, which allows you to occasionally make mistakes without dying. So you gotta collect those balls anyway.

All the while, the voice of your creator is periodically making fun of you and informing you of your progress. This announcer was billed as a feature of the game but I find him incredibly annoying and I don’t think ridiculing the player is a feature any game needs to have. While that is some auditory negativity for me, the game has a very fitting and enjoyable soundtrack that doesn’t get old too quickly while you’re repeatedly hitting Retry after screwing up for the 437th time. The graphics are simply designed but very well executed, with great lighting effects that actually serve to aid your gameplay. The downside is even as you progress through the stages, not much changes, so while the game looks good, there isn’t much visual variety.

ZiQ Jump Over the Candlestick Acid Pit

ZiQ is definitely one of those games that will make you keep saying “Just one more go” (At least for a time). While it doesn’t have the micro-transactions that turn me off from most games in its category, the price is kind of high for the amount of substance it offers. This is a game you’ll probably play for a few hours, and while you’ll likely enjoy them, it will most likely end up in the depths of your Steam Library after that.

It is fun to play, but it just doesn’t offer that much to stand out from other more famous runner games like the Bit.Trip Runner series. Aside from that, it manages to somewhat mess up the controls for such a simple game – You have to hold down the left or right buttons to stay in the left or right lanes. This caused a lot of accidental deaths for me that could have been easily avoided if simply tapping the left, right or nonexistent center buttons put you in the corresponding lane until you pressed another. Maybe the held-button controls work for some people, but it would have been nice to have the option to change them. Perhaps it will play better with the Switch controls, but that version wasn’t available at the time of this writing.

My final word is if you like runner-style games, you will definitely like ZiQ, but I would wait for a sale to pick this one up. It just isn’t meaty enough for the full $10, but I would consider buying it at a bit lower price. It has a pretty niche appeal and you’ll probably only get a handful of hours out of it. Personally, if I was working on this, I would have considered more visual themes, a wider range of hazards and point scoring opportunities, or other mechanics, such as a path that bends, twists or otherwise changes directions to add some more depth and value to the gameplay, as well as sub goals the game tracks to help you measure your progress and improvement.

~ Final Score: 6/10 ~

Review copy provided by 3D Realms for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.