Sunday, February 15, 2009

Air Zonk

Hudson Soft / Red

Air Zonk is a treasure-trove of creativity and originality. The basic premise of a futuristic Bonk starring in a shooter is pure gold, and granting the cool-and-cocky hero a group of charismatic, sunglasses-donning allies to fly and fight alongside was a stroke of genius. There's experimentation to be done here, as some of the wacky wingmen perform better in certain locations than they do in others. Fresh methods of attack are to be discovered when Zonk merges with a co-misfit to become a single ridiculous gestalt of destruction. And the enemy cast is as wonderfully wacky and colorful as you'd expect in a game with Bonk ties. But AZ's mid- and end-level giants don't settle for mere cartoony brilliance, measuring up to other great shooter bosses with their numerous attack types (and, in many cases, myriad forms). The power-ups you can utilize against them are awesome and atypical, and Zonk's automatic backwards fire frequently comes in handy.

On top of all that, the prismatic, parallax-laden visuals are about the best that any TurboChip has ever delivered; you really can tell that a lot of effort was put into them. The uptempo music also impresses; in fact, the painfully sweet second-stage tune ranks among the greatest HuCard tracks.

AZ is a really, really cool shooter, good fun from beginning to end, and it gives me very little to complain about. At times, the gameplay can feel a little sloppy because of the chunky sprites and the slowdown/flicker that rears its head every so often (understandably, considering the ambitiousness of this chip project). Also, this is an easy ride until the very last boss (who sends speedy "chaser" devices after you and who would be even more daunting if you weren't sure to have lots of lives left for the fight). But none of this really detracts from my enjoyment of the game. It's one that every TG-16 owner can show off to those who are skeptical of the base system's capabilities.

Tyrannosaurs and lobster monsters are no match for the card spreadshot and the might of mini-Zonk.

You're sure to run into a few pals from the olden days... well as some very nutty bosses.

Zonk assumes wacky new forms upon merging with his allies.

You've gotta love POWER DUMP.

You needn't worry much about these, uh, whatever-the-hell-they-ares, but...

...this guy can put up a fight.

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