Review by Arwing Ace

"A flashy, intense, all out FUN shooter!"

Only a handfull of games really showed what the TurboGrafx was capable of. It could be argued that Air Zonk accomplishes this task better than any other game. Great graphics aside, Air Zonk is a game that takes the tried and true side scrolling shooter genre, and mixes it up a little with fun and interesting gameplay elements. The result is, to put it mildly, astoundingly fun and addictive. It's a shame that Air Zonk was not released early on in the system's life, as it really could have been a hot system seller...it's that good. Let's break it down:

Premise: You are Air Zonk, the futuristic, cybernetically modified ancestor of the famous Bonk, of Bonk's Adventure. You are on a quest to eliminate the evil King Drool and his hordes of robotic henchmen. You fly along in 2D side-scrolling levels, destroying all enemies that come at you until you reach the sub-bosses and regular bosses at the conclusion of each area. Air Zonk can enlist the help of his mechanized friends, and even meld with them to help defeat all that stands in his way.

Graphics: (10/10) For the era of this game's release, these graphics were second to none. Beautiful, big sprites, tons of vibrant colors, huge explosions, detailed backgrounds and fleets of enemies on screen at once are just some of the basic graphical elements of this game. There are times of slow-down though, but only when things are at their very craziest.

Sound: (8/10) The main attraction here is the very catchy set of BGM tunes that you hear throughout the game. They fit the setting and pace of the game perfectly. Music aside, the sound effects for weapons, explosions etc. are nothing out of the realm of ordinary.

Controls: (9/10) Nothing too complex here, basically just the D-pad to move in the eight standard directions, button I to fire, button II to charge up and select to fire backwards. Although it may sound awkward to have select as a fire button, it is not even necessary to use it, since you will automatically fire backwards if an enemy gets too close to your rear. The turbo function of the TurboGrafx controller is put to good use and saves your thumb from being worn down to a boney stub.

Gameplay: (9/10) The goal is to destroy as many enemies as possible with no damage to yourself. Air Zonk begins with a standard blaster that can be charged and used with a spread-shot, shotgun type effect or charged even further into a devestating bomb that tears up everything on the screen. This brings about interesting situations of evading masses of enemies while you're in a defensless state of charging your bomb up. In addition, weapon modifiers can be collected that allow Zonk to shoot homing missiles, shrink, toss playing cards and many other interesting variations. If that weren't enough, you can choose a 'buddy' at the outset of each level. Collect a large smiley face and this buddy will accompany you and shoot at enemies. Collect another large smiley face and you will meld with your buddy to form a super strong, super unique fighting machine. The range of abilities, strengths and weaknesses of these melded forms really create a good deal of pre-level strategizing. If you're going into a level with lots of small enemies that swarm around you, you may want to choose a buddy like Bubblician, who can create a cloud of destructive bubbles around you. If you need forward fire power for a boss, Moo Moo may be your best choice with his milk-can firing utters. These elements create the perfect blend of difficulty, intensity, and strategy.

Replayability (8/10): The game could be considered short if you master it, and there are no bonuses to be had. This game is so fun and playable though, that you'll find yourself randomly popping it in for a quick play through to try to beat your last high score. And if you're up for a challenge, there's a hard mode that leaves you with precious few lives.

Final: 9/10 - Not an average
If you have a TurboGrafx 16, you need this game...simple as that. The second the game begins, you're having fun, and it doesn't let up from there. I usually see the game pop up on the net for $20-$30, and trust me, it's worth the dough.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/19/03, Updated 05/19/03


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