Added to the lair: 8/23/20
Genre: Action Adventure / Isometric
Developer: Reflexive Entertainment
Wikipedia: Zax: The Alien Hunter
Zax: The Alien Hunter
You're in for the adventure of your life...
Zax is an entertaining if simplistic action game that's held up relatively well considering it's approaching 20 years old now.
Some of the promotional materials for the game made claims of Zax being "Diablo meets Quake!" which is a major stretch, but it's a fun time nevertheless. Truthfully it's not a whole lot like either of those games. It is isometric like Diablo and you do shoot a lot of stuff like Quake, but that's about as far as the comparison goes. Truthfully, Gauntlet would probably make for a better comparison. Gauntlet's a fun game, so they certainly could have done worse.
The game consists of you - the eponymous Zax - running around various environments and shooting everything that moves, picking up resources, avoiding traps, and finding various switches and keys needed in order to progress. Periodically while progressing, your female companion will tell you that you can create a new weapon by bringing some resources back to the ship. There isn't any real loot to speak of - these upgrades are tied to story/level progression. It's all very straightforward but it manages to remain entertaining because the combat itself is pretty fun - you move with the keyboard and aim with the mouse, and the aiming reticle is confined to a certain radius around your character because you don't shoot at a specific point where you're aiming, you shoot in that direction. This means that Zax is, essentially, a proto-twin stick shooter. Indeed, the game plays quite well with a 360/XB1 controller I found (custom joystick controls are included as usual, details are in the readme/special notes section here), controlling with the left stick and aiming with the right. It's actually quite comfortable to play that way, despite not being designed for such a device.
The story, like the gameplay, is simplistic, but it doesn't get in the way or detract anything. The voice acting is generally pretty solid. That said, don't go in expecting a magnum opus of storytelling. It works and it serves its purpose.
The graphics have held up relatively well, thanks largely to some pretty good sprite artwork. As time has shown us, this type of stuff tends to age considerably better than early polygon work. It's not going to wow you in 2020 or anything, but it still looks decent.
Zax doesn't really do anything revolutionary, but the things that it does are done well, so I can't really complain. It's a fun, simple little action romp that's worth checking out.