ZIQ Review: Challenging, But Rewarding

ZIQ provides a one of a kind opportunity where players can become a part of an AI hive mind army being trained to dominate the universe and extinguish all life. Players do this by stepping into the role of the Z series IQ nanite, an immortal construct of nanomachines. These ZIQ are prepared for their domination of the universe by being made to run through a never-ending, and constantly changing, obstacle course to ultimately be blown apart and then be insulted for their incompetence. The end result of this is to improve the neural network of the ZIQ for when the hivemind overlord Swarm ultimately takes over the universe.

ZIQ can change polarities, switching between orange and blue, to navigate different obstacles as well pick up nanites for a boost. The randomization of color in obstacles mixed with the challenge of picking of boosts in patterns of color can make for a hectic challenge. Players will have to pay attention to various attributes at once if they want to top the scoreboards.

There is a solid amount of depth to the game, and if players pay attention to what Swarm says during the game they can learn a fair amount about his story and why he hates living things so much. There is no innate story-telling to ZIQ, but rather players piece together the details they get from the hours they will spend listening to Swarm yell at them.

The Good

ZIQ provides an endless onslaught of tests and challenges getting procedurally more difficult, which makes for a great challenge. Right when it seems a player has the hang of things, a new type of obstacle is added to the mix to keep people on their toes as to what’s next. All of this while being constantly berated by Swarm, reminding ZIQ how absolutely worthless it is. At times that aggressive behavior is a strong motivation to do better, a drive to prove Swarm wrong. Other times it is a rage-inducing experience. After dying for the umpteenth time and having Swarm tell ZIQ how completely useless it is again can start to test a player’s patience.

The ever-changing dark synth music in the background can be almost hypnotic at times, setting a rhythm for actions. ZIQ can pick up items to get an overcharge, and doing so at the most opportune moment rewards extra points to the player score. This combination of polarity switching, timing pick-ups, and navigating obstacles has ZIQ feeling like a rhythm game much of the time, creating an entrancing effect that makes it difficult to peel a person’s eyes from the screen or the controls.

The Bad

The curse of many endless games is that they like true variety. Levels are not set in stone and are different every time, but the environment becomes stale after running down the same hallway hundreds of times. The visuals are colorful and changing, and the music really creates a huge pull to the game but that hypnotism starts to wear off after looking at the same things. It becomes less entrancing and more like a background static that can just be tuned out. A change in visuals, a change in modes, really a change in anything would be a nice addition to keep the game from getting stale.

Final Thoughts

ZIQ can be a fun an enthralling experience in short periods of time, but that magic starts to turn into frustration after prolonged exposure to the game. The rhythm of sound and game starts to become background noise to the barrage of insults Swarm throws at players throughout their experience. Though the obstacles in the environment never follow the same pattern, the environment never really changes and becomes stale after a while. The game is still new though, and shows promise as a fun and challenging runner. With a little variety thrown in ZIQ could stand to be a game that pulls people back even after completing the main objective.

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