Zenith
for CD-i

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Mr Creosote:
Company: Radarsoft / Philips Media
Year: 1997
Genre: Action
Theme: Abstract / Multiplayer
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 283
Review by Mr Creosote (2022-07-16)
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Zenith advertises itself as a “3-D pinball game”. Way to mislead your potential buyers! While there may be some similarities with pinball, those are frankly peripheral at best. But then, it is a game which is hard to describe for sure. The best way to define it to those initiated is to clarify that it is a re-imagination of the C64 classic Bounder. Looking beyond the false labelling, Zenith shows just how much fun those very basic arcade style games can be.

The player takes direct control of a metal ball which for inexplicable reasons bounces off the ground to impossible heights. Realism surely is irrelevant for the entertainment value here. The objective is to bounce through the exclusively vertically scrolling level. Timing things right so that you don't fall into a hole or on any dangerous square. Ideally hitting all those bonus squares.

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The level design is highly three-dimensional. Obstacles are often tall, requiring the ball to bounce strongly. The most valuable score items, on the other hand, are usually found close to an abyss or inside a narrow chasm. This not only makes very exact ball controls a necessity, but also takes full advantage of the nice zooming effect as the ball goes up and down.

Power-ups and other extras fall into the expected range from extra lives and shield to changes of basic physics (low gravity, flying…). While not super imaginative, they do introduce some variety so that the six levels don't turn into a repetitive bore.

While primarily about skill, hand-eye coordination, it is noteworthy that Zenith does not require fast reflexes. There is a time limit per level, but it is rather forgiving about not overcoming hurdles right away etc. Precision is much more important than twitch.

That alone makes Zenith playworthy in my book. The fact that it is well made and focussed helps to keep motivation up. It all looks so casual, but is nevertheless challengingly tricky. Even if it will not last forever, it's a winner!

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