There’s no shortage of puzzle games on the Xbox One. They’ve arrived in a wide range of shapes and sizes this gen, spanning from some truly innovative titles such as Q.U.B.E. 2, to some pretty ridiculous additions, such as Albedo: Eyes from Space. Safe to say that this genre in particular, is the epitome of hot and cold. I quite enjoy myself the occasional puzzle game from time to time, and although I’m far from what one would describe as the genre’s die hard fan, I do appreciate puzzle game’s that stand out alongside their peers for more than one reason.
The Z Axis: Continuum is one such title and although it’s a far stretch from being perfect, it does indeed tick many of the boxes that it needed to. The premise of the game is simple; players need to navigate through what’s described to be a 2D rotating universe, with portals, physics, time and more playing a role as to how this is ultimately achieved. One thing that immediately struck me about The Z Axis: Continuum is that it’s got a very accessible learning curve that sits well inline with its difficulty curve. This, in my opinion, is a design choice that’s vital for any puzzle game to succeed.
Map orientation is the game’s most dominant feature, meaning that players will oftentimes need to rotate the map in order to manipulate the character’s fall and movement. This mechanic is used in a range of interesting ways and can be utilized to access sections of each level that would otherwise be gated off. With the simple click of a button floors will become ceilings, walls will become floors and your drop-direction will alter more often than the UK’s current weather situation. This may sound simple on paper, but believe me, when the game lets go of your hand, it’s anything but.
The Z Axis: Continuum, as aforementioned, does a good job at feeding you into the basics of play. Though, before long, there’s more than just room orientation to get to grips with. Despite that, the aim of each level remains the same throughout. Players will begin at a starting point and will need to maneuver around the environment until they reach the level-end orb. Doing so will complete the level and pull in the next, totaling thirty in full. There’s also a chain of achievements that encourage speed-running the levels, which is a neat addition for those of you that enjoy G-hunting.
In regards to the gameplay itself, each level will climb in complexity as progression is made and new features are introduced. Portals will be dotted around the levels and these can be used to access other parts of the map, which is usually a necessary function to utilize to access a pad of some sort elsewhere. These pads are typically color-coded and will, once activated, open up a door that matches to that color, allowing you to move further through. At times, the game will even demand that you manipulate objects (balls and platforms of varying shapes) around the map to hit these pads, locking you to a single room until this process is complete.
The Z Axis: Continuum will throw environmental hazards into the mix via spiky walls and barriers that will insta-kill you once touched, forcing a level restart. What I like most about this game is that it’s been designed in such a way that everything that’s eventually added makes immediate sense, but working out how to beat it and executing a plan consistently remains the opposite. There’s really not that much the grumble about here, especially if you’re a fan of the genre. My only gripe sits with the game’s visuals. They’re pretty basic and lack refinement. It would have been nice to see more background design at the least.
If for any reason to bring more life to the experience. Don’t get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game, but I would be lying if I said I was impressed on the visual front. It does exactly what it needs to do, but everything just looks the same throughout the entirety of play. This lack of diversity only gets harder to overlook as time moves on. Furthermore, some levels relay a sort of multi-color flashing room design, which isn’t at all pleasant on the eyes. I can say the same about the game’s generic audio. Though, with that to the side, The Z Axis: Continuum is not a game that you want to pass on by.
The Z Axis: Continuum is innovative and truly finds its own when all of its clever mechanics play off one another. Once those challenging levels start being served and you’re observing heaps of portals, pads, clones and more of the game’s interesting mechanics, all going off at once, it gives you a massive sense of accomplishment when you finally overcome them in turn. The Z Axis: Continuum may not be groundbreaking by any means, but as far as puzzle-only games go, this is distinct and unique enough to stand out on the merit of its solid foundation.
The Z Axis: Continuum isn’t likely to rock your puzzle-loving world, but it does enough to stand out on the merit of its interesting, manipulative mechanics. The game slowly feeds you into the basics of play before throwing larger, more complex levels your way. It may indeed be lacking in the visual department for more reasons than one, but it still goes on to present a brain hammering challenge nevertheless.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.