Z Origins: The Classic RTS, Now on Android

Z Origins is the Android port of the original Bitmap Brothers PC game of ‘Z’. First released in 1996, it came just a year after the the initial release of Command and Conquer, another popular genre title. However, what made Z stand out were the more aggressive enemies and added complexity of gameplay.

Now this classic is on Android, and you can once again enjoy the humour, action and intensity of the original. Retro gaming is a big deal on the Android platform, but can be done quite badly. Which camp does Z Origins fall into? Read on for more…

General Zod, Brad and Allan

Let’s start by introducing the cast. Brad and Allan are two ‘dude’ robots who consume far too much rocket fuel. Their boss, General Zod is an ass-kicking, cigar-chewing robot version of every cliche troop commander from every US Army movie you’ve ever seen. Together — and, I guess, with your help — they must capture the blue sectors of the gameplay area across several levels of action.

Iconic splash page

Iconic splash page

You command an army of red robot grunts and a good opening strategy is to capture the abandoned vehicles on the map as this gives you a little more manoeuvrability. Levels are completed when you capture the blue team’s Fort, destroy all the blue robots or just last a predetermined period of time.

Controls

Controls are very simple. Tap on a team of grunts to assign them, then tap an area of the map to send them there. They will attack blue robots they meet on the way, capture buildings or vehicles, and then defend the area you’ve sent them to.

There are various on-screen buttons which help navigate you around the game map — like taking you to where battles are taking place, or where grunts are being built. You also can see which set of grunts are currently under control. The controls are perhaps not quite as intuitive on a touchscreen as they are on a PC using a mouse, but I think that’s more down to my own previous experiences rather than a design problem.

Tabs are easily to tap on and make navigation simple.

Tabs are easily to tap on and make navigation simple.

Blue enemies are fundamentally quite aggressive, far more so than those you might have battled in games like Command and Conquer. This alone is quite refreshing and definitely adds an element of jeopardy to later levels. Your troops start quite thin-on-the-ground, so it’s often prudent to build your armies before launching into a big invasion. That said, you need to capture empty sectors before you use them so you need to use strategy to determine how best to complete the level.

Capture flags and territory, destroy blue enemies wherever you find them

Capture flags and territory; destroy blue enemies wherever you find them

You also have a wide variety of soldiers and abilities, so these need to be deployed correctly to make the most of them. It’s definitely a gameplay element you grow into as you learn about different ways of using your troops.

Numbers

The game is as close to the original as it could possibly be, and this includes the vehicles, soldiers, levels and weapons. So, there are six different types of robot soldier, each with different personalities and quirks. Your forces have anywhere up to forty different actions depending on their weapons. You explore and conquer across four different planets completing a total of twenty different levels, each progressively harder than the last. Finally, there’s over half an hour of zany cut-scene footage to consume as you progress, all in its original glory.

Vehicles help wipe out grunt baddies

Vehicles help wipe out grunt baddies

Visuals

The graphics are very much of their era. They would have dazzled when they first launched and the rich animated cut scenes would have threatened to freeze your mid-end PC. However, now, they look decidedly dated next to very many strategy games on the Android platform. To be honest though, you just don’t download games like Z for the graphics — it’s more about the nostalgic gameplay and bygone gaming memories. The game is superbly ported and everything in the original is included (as far as I can tell!).

General Zod, in all his Android glory

General Zod, in all his Android glory

Sound

By all accounts, the sound is pretty epic. You (perhaps obviously) have loads of different soldier quips and voices, plus the frequent sound of red on blue battle. Different vehicles create new sounds too and this is all backed up by music that pumps along to the action. There is a great deal of diversity, none of which become annoying or too repetitive.

Options

Options

I did notice occasionally the sound and video of the cut scenes are not always in sync. On one hand, that’s a little shoddy… but on the other, didn’t PC games used to do that sometimes anyway? It might even be suggested that the game is a little too faithful to the original!

The Strategy genre

On Android, when we think of strategy games, it’s no long before you stumble across the burgeoning tower defence genre. While Z Origins isn’t turn or wave based, the need for clever strategy is quite familiar. We’ve reviewed lots of tower defence titles on Android.AppStorm, and even a tower ‘offense’ game. For other military based squabbles, you also have games like Great Little War Game. There’s elements of all these in Z Origins, plus the distinct retro feel of a well-ported classic.

Strategic gameplay should be relatively familiar, definitely if you've played games like Command & Conquer before

Strategic gameplay should be relatively familiar, definitely if you’ve played games like Command & Conquer before

Retro Games

Here’s perhaps another excuse to post a link to the 33 Fantastic Retro Games to Get Nostalgic About. That done, it still has to be said that those old-school titles continue to be popular in the Google Play Store. As the power of our devices equal and surpass PC and console specifications of yesteryear, we might expect this to happen anyway. While some are full ports of older games — like the superb R-Type — others simply adopt the look, feel and playability of old-school favourites. Popular games like Tiny Tower and Game Dev Story underpin this adoration by Android users.

Early in-game instructions

Early in-game instructions

Z Origins is a great retro game that continues to be loved today. Community-based sites, such as The Zod Engine, create an open equivalent to the original Z games, harnessing the internet for multiplayer games in real time. Personally though, my game of that time was always Command and Conquer. However, the franchise, now owned wholly by EA games, doesn’t look like it’s going to be released into the Google Play Store any time soon. Z Origins however, is a great alternative and rich in that nostalgic goodness.

Capture main fort to complete levels

Capture main fort to complete levels

Conclusion

If you were a fan of the original Z games, Z Origins will be a pleasing and cosy game to revisit and you can expect the same jovial experience and frantic, real-time, strategy-based gameplay. This perhaps isn’t a game for fans of eye-wateringly stunning graphics and the stuttering cutscenes might seem like a travesty to the modern gamer. However, the original series of Z games were hugely popular back in the day, and this Android port is an accurate and fun-filled adaptation of those classics.


Summary

Old-school real-time strategy smothered in humour and addictive gameplay. Fans of the original will be impressed and tower defense strategists might also love the Android port of this gaming classic.

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