Azimuth is a extensive spaceship shooter metroidvania game.
On a patrol through far-off space, you come upon a wrecked space colony – once a collaborative science project in an attempt to create intergalactical understanding. What happened to its inhabitants? On the search for survivors you fly deeper and deeper into the planets core, slowly pioneering through barriers and the flora and fauna that got already a hold of the young ruins.
The game draws some heavy inspiration from the „Metroid“-Series; many items, enemies, but also the general level- and game-design evoke strong memories. Even the music sounds quite metroidesque. Yet this game can’t be considered as a clone with some added gimmick: Not alone does the peculiarly realized spaceship mechanic add a very unique flavor, the developer also added some cool ideas of their own to the formula, and spiced the game up with some quite high difficulty – mostly rather in terms of level design and exploration than in battles.
You’ll encounter dead ends and seemingly dead ends. I’m pretty sure there are various possible ways to beat this game. At one point I was sure I was dead-stuck. The way I used to escape from this situation felt more like making my way through bug-abuse and pixel-window-hunts – but it worked and didn’t caused any problems later on. I don’t know if this was an accident or some truly ingenious game design, but it was absolutely satisfactory.
The art design is suitable to create differing opinions; some people who saw me play it found it ghastly. I find it great. Simple forms and minimal, flat textures are used to construct levels, enemies, decorations, and yourself – it is visible that a lot of thought and time was employed to work around the lack capacities do design sprites. Even if you don’t find this as charming as I do, this low level of detail in the graphics is not only outweighed by countless little details within the world and the levels, but increases – together with the rawness of some gameplay elements – a harsh and otherworldly atmosphere, coherent to the games premise and role model. The audio design is well made, and the music design at best times smashing.
The whole game is huge, and even though I played for over 4 hours (not counting in the time that I lost through not making it back or forward to a save point – this could make up to another 2 hours), I suppose that I didn’t even saw a third of the total game yet. A range of items can be used and recombined in various ways, opening up unexpected solutions and ways; a hint-system allows to cut some time short without offering too much help; purists should evade it anyway and explore the labyrinthine space station on their own initiative.
While the overall story seems a bit stereotyped (yet not fully predictable) – seeing that it clearly orients itself on retro-games, I don’t think that every possible political implication of the central storyline should be taken literally – the in-detail the narration is very entertaining, likeable, and always interesting enough to keep you on the keyboard.
Given how long and extensive the game is, the quality of Azimuth is astonishing – I highly recommend to try it, even if the screenshots might put you off at first. Especially if you always enjoyed the strange, alien side of the Metroid-Series and wish for a game that combines it with some higher difficulty and a sprawling scope, this game will likely be exactly your cup of tea.
Azimuth is free, libre open source software. The developer also created some other games available on their website. Getting it to run on Linux isn’t trivial, and I just ended up firing it up with Wine on OpenSuse Leap (which worked flawlessly).