[Review] ZikSquare – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: TOMAGameStudio
  • Publisher: TOMAGameStudio
  • Release Date: 18/10/2019
  • Price: £6.29 / $6.99
  • Review code provided by TOMAGameStudio

Spinning Into A World Unknown

I’m not sure about you, but I’ve been trained not to spare too much of a glance at things in digital game storefronts that cost less than a certain price (unless they’re free).  ZikSquare caught my eye for the concept that it has having such potential that I figured it was worth giving the game a shot. After all, I hadn’t done much with music besides singing badly in my car since I was in high school, so I could use and excuse to get a little creative.

Do, Re, Mi

ZikSquare is really two things in one. On the surface there is the constantly moving musically themed platformer, but underneath there is a method of music creation that underscores all of that. When you first boot up the game you will be given the options to either play the levels that the game comes with or make your own. Like many people would, I went for playing the levels first. The tutorial went alright enough. Music plays based on the placement of the bars in the level  you move along them and jump or double jump in order to keep moving. The first problem that I ran into was not feeling like I had very much control over my jump aside from timing. You’re given two different heights of jump that you can preform by pressing two different buttons. As a result, it feels a lot like the jump arcs are locked in to how they will move. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does take a lot of getting used to and figuring out exactly when to employ each type of jump. After the tutorial level, some of the others feel like they have a fairly steep learning curve. Thankfully, every level is unlocked from the beginning, so if one is giving you a lot of trouble, you can just choose another to try instead.

The other aspect to the platforming is the fact that since there is more than one instrument playing at a time, there is more than one track that you can jump between. This allows for skipping over larger gaps and moving to a tram that might be less challenging for platforming. While wonderful for allowing you to set your own difficulty in levels that don’t have that variable, but can lead you to being accidentally on a lane that is a bit harder than you can handle at your current skill level.

Fa, So, La

The platforming has a few problems that, while not an issue on their own, can compound into being frustrating for some players. There is an invisible audience that is watching you each time that you play. Their polite applause each time that you finish a level is satisfying, but the audible booing when you make a mistake, like clipping the edge of a platform or getting momentarily trapped by a vertical wall, is quickly irritating. I understand when the music cuts off in a music based game that I have done something wrong, having the addition of someone booing me, even if it is a low rumble of it rather than a large yell. Not to mention hearing this each time that I would lose a level and have to start over, had me associating it with even further failure. Not every game has to encourage the player, of course, but booing the player can be discouraging.

The other minor issue with playing a level  is that those who have trouble with depth perception might need to sit this one out. When there are five different tracks running at once, determining which one exactly to switch to and how many button presses that will take can be tricky to do while trying not to fall off your own platforms. Additionally, you cannot rapidly switch between tracks since the game takes a beat to allow you to swap again. Your  switching must be planned and deliberate. If you do fall off that platform, though, there is no taking damage or second try, you are shooting all the way back to the level. So, if there is a certain part that you are struggling to get past and it takes you more than a few tries, get used to hearing the beginning of the same song over and over again with each failure.

Ti, Do!

No doubt, though, the real draw for many will be the other aspect that this game offers. The capability to make your own music compositions that serve as levels themselves. Just be careful to make sure you hit the tutorial button before beginning since you will not be given one unless you do so. The creator is fairly simple and straightforward once you know how to access all the menus to change things such as the instrument being used or the style of block you are placing. It’s quite easy to make your own song, provided you have an ear for music and the patience to spend the time putting it into the system. There is a lot of room for creativity, even if I am not musically gifted enough to utilize it to it’s full extent. You can save up to forty songs at a time, which is more than enough slots for most people.

The addition of a system in the game to generate song sections based off of the input that you provide of what kind of sound is available, but there is only a few options for each of the instruments so if you want some thing specific, you’re going to have to built that yourself or use the generated section as a basis and building block for your own creation. Of course, you do have to keep in mind your little smiling and jumping block is going to need to get through the level if you want to be able to play the whole thing yourself as a level and not just listen to it. The addition of a mode which allows you to build in 3d like the level appears rather than the typical grid, does help give a better idea of what exactly the level might look like, though, especially for those who might want to just build a level and worry about how it sounds later.

The “I Made A Bad Song” from above, in 3d building mode

Building a level can be slow at times, thanks to the lack of touch screen support. Everything is going to have to be done through button presses through a grid based system. It works in it’s simplicity, but the ability to merely touch where I wanted my blocks to be rather than moving through the grid would have been a big help, but it is by no means a deal breaker. The one thing that is it is actually a bit disappointing to see is that there does not appear to be any function to share your level/composition or look at the ones of others. I’ll be the first to admit that this is a bit much to ask of what is a fairly budget title, but it does mean that if you want to share what you have created, it will have to be locally and with those you can convince to have a go on your musical platforms.

Overall, as a budget platforming and music creation tool, ZikSquare gets the job done. The musically inclined or a creative child are more likely to get something out of the music creator than anyone else, but if you’re just looking to scratch a quick platforming itch now and then with a variety of musical genres, you’re likely to get a little fun out of it here and there.

Once More, From The Top

Pros

  • Variety of musical genres in the platform levels
  • Simple to understand and versatile level creator

Cons

  • Some levels have a steep difficulty curve
  • Minor gameplay quirks that will turn off some players
  • Hard to share your creations

Verdict
With two ways to play, this game will bring out the composer in you, even if the platforming can take a bit to get a handle on.
3/5

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