The way I see it, there are two types of video games out there: games that pull you in and immerse you in a deep and all-consuming mythos, and games you play to kill time. Alpha Zero is certainly the latter. Of course, this doesn’t mean Alpha Zero is a bad game by any means, but I certainly wouldn’t say it’s a game of the year contender. The great shame is that Alpha Zero’s true potential cannot be reached because it is simply too inconvenient to play. What could have been the perfect game for your morning commute is instead a taxing and uncomfortable mess. Gameplay, overall, is engaging but not without its issues. The multitude of enemies and varying difficulty of boss battles made the game fun enough for me to play through to the end. The biggest gameplay issue is certainly the controls. It’s a point-and-shoot game, so you would think it would be the most intuitive game in the world, and it is. The only problem is that you aren’t restricted to just one side of the screen. This means your fighter can move anywhere you tell him to move, and enemies can appear from any corner of your phone or tablet. You need two hands to play this game: one to move the ship and the other to shoot, and herein lies the biggest issue with the controls. When you use one hand to hold the device while simultaneously moving your character and the other hand to aim and shoot your enemies, you will quickly find the game uncomfortable and obstructed. All too often you’ll find yourself fighting enemies from all sides, forcing your hands towards the middle of the screen. This will impede your vision, blocking out your character and obscuring your enemies. You aren’t able to see where they’re shooting and where to maneuver. I found myself frantically passing my tablet from one hand to the other in order to play the game properly. The result: one hand got a cramp from having to balance a tablet on a moving train while the other hand poked repeatedly at it. This makes playing the game on the go rather inconvenient, which is a problem as all this game is really good for is killing time. I wouldn’t put this game on my dining table at home and play it for the fun of it – it’s just not that good. I would, however, love to play it on the subway. But, given the situation – the movement, the crowds, the already stressful environment – Alpha Zero is too unwieldy and uncomfortable to be enjoyable on the go. Alpha Zero is certainly not original. Anyone old enough to remember Areo Fighters will see the obvious connection. You play as a space fighter whose world is ambushed by an alien menace. You then become the galaxy’s greatest ace as you go from level to level navigating star systems and destroying bad guys. It’s basically one of the oldest Sci-Fi cliché’s in the book. But honestly, that’s OK for this genre. These kinds of point-and-shoot action adventure games don’t really need to bring a whole lot to the table in terms of a story. You only ever play these games to blow up bad guys and get power-ups, and this Alpha Zero does well. This game does have some pretty high peaks to accompany its various shortcomings. For one, the graphics are incredible. It really is a pretty little game. This is why it could have been great for your commute: it’s low concept enough that you don’t have to think too hard and it looks fantastic – just what you need early in the morning. The ship customization is compelling enough to make you want to level up. With additions like plasma and laser cannons, it’s easy to get drawn in – especially considering how great the graphics are. You really become curious to see how awesome a plasma bomb is going to look. If you play with headphones in, the sound is also quite nice. It suits the game well and adds to the overall experience. When all is said and done, the biggest problem with this game is the price tag. At $2.99, Alpha Zero feels pretty overpriced. I would have been happy paying 99 cents for it, considering it really isn’t much better than most free games out there. Given the amount of attention that went into the graphics for this game I can understand why it’s priced the way it is. But considering the rather cumbersome controls, the inoffensive yet boring story, and the unoriginal concept it really just isn’t worth the money. Unless the price drops, I would steer clear of Alpha Zero.
Alpha Zero is a slightly above average point-and-shoot game with a cookie-cutter story and brilliant graphics. It could have been a great game to play on your morning commute, but its unwieldy controls and high price-tag rule this game out for most mobile gamers.