Review Shooter

Z-Warp – Review | Let’s Do The Time Warp Again

Z-Warp is the latest Shmup developed by Panda Indie Studio and published by Eastasiasoft. Grab some change, practice your hand exercises and rub your eyes – It’s shoot ’em up time!

Just A Jump To The Left

Z-Warp is developed by Panda Indie Studios who also crafted such Shmups as Project Starship, Null Drifter, and Void Gore. This isn’t their first rodeo. 

Z-Warp sees you behind the Goggles of a space fighter pilot. His mission:

to save a black box from a prototype ship that has suddenly pinged in the depths of space. But space seems to be inside something or someone – that’s all I can figure out about what’s going on in this tale.

As I always say in these reviews, arcade-style titles such as Shmups don’t require narrative; Just give me what I need to jump right into the arcade fun. Not having an actual story doesn’t detract from these type of titles, so I won’t hold it against it. I just can’t reward the story as it’s so cookie-cutter it could have been in the background of Ready Steady Cook!

And A Step To The Right

Gameplay is key for arcade-inspired titles and if you’ve been reading this website for some time you’ll have seen the many Shmup reviews that have cropped up over the past few years. Shmups are as arcade as they come.

Z-Warp is a vertical shooter that has X stages in which you have to dodge hazards, shoot down enemy “crafts”, blow up everything with your bomb, get the hi-score, and aim to do it all in 1 credit. 

The shots in this game come in two flavors. It has a rapid-fire spread shot used by pressing the button and a stronger beam by holding the button down. While this does a lot more damage it limits ship speed; ideal for intricate dodging but less so for avoiding large hazards.

Put Your Hands On Your Hips

While on paper it doesn’t seem to do much that its peers don’t, Z-Warp has two features that make it unique: the use of the bomb and the fact you can fly over the boss sprite. These are both essential to see your task complete.

Rather than being a pick-up or limited like most Shmups, the bomb here recharges quickly after use. This is because you’ll be using it to collect items or activate switches behind stage hazards or make a path through dense bullet patterns. Clever use of the bomb will keep you safe and have you scrambling back to optimize its use for higher scores.

Secondly, the ability to fly over the bosses, while seeming trivial at first, plays against your natural instinct to fly away from them. It’s a clever trick because the only way to avoid some bullet patterns is to be over or above the boss sprite!. It is such a small thing but when it clicked with me I found myself closer to 1CC than ever.

You Bring Your Knees In Tight

The stages are quite bite-sized and as such the game runs around 20 minutes. This is ideal for pick-up and play sessions and with the addictive nature of the game, each run just flies by so quickly.

Bosses are naturally the highlights of the show with giant sprites and the more complex and fun bullet patterns to navigate. That said, I will point out that the final boss does outstay its welcome in terms of how much damage it takes to destroy it.

Scoring is simple and fun. The quicker you kill enemies, the higher your multiplier rises, and the more points the green skulls they drop are worth. A full bomb explosion nets you a “Killer” bonus and is essential if you want to tackle the online leaderboards.

The game features a story mode which is your basic arcade run, an endless mode that lasts as long as you do, and online leaderboards for both. With 3 different difficulties, that’s about your lot.

But It’s The Pelvic Thrust, That Really Drives You Insane

On the visuals side of the see-saw, Z-Warp nails an appealing “Game Gear” graphical style with the art direction of an episode about the body from The Magic School Bus!

The visuals have that soft 8 to 16-bit style that smacks of the Aleste Series for those familiar with that. The ship is chunky and so are many of the sprites – I love it.

The stages all seem to be themed on traveling around a body. This means lots of the red stuff and it’s a rather interesting take on the Shmup genre – in my opinion, one that isn’t done enough.

The music is brilliantly suited to the game and the sound effects land just right for the perfect feedback. While not quite in the lofty realms of a CAVE, Psikyo, or Treasure releases, the audio/visual side of things nails a unique look with some fantastic sound quality.

Finally and most importantly, you can put the game into TATE mode which is near enough essential for vertical shooters. It really should be a no-brainer for people playing on the Nintendo Switch. Other consoles vary on how much trouble you’ll cause flipping your T.V on its side.


Z-Warp is a bargain-priced, arcade romp and just a generally all-around good time. It controls well, has addictive scoring, an endearing art style, and it doesn’t damage your wallet for the privilege.

While not oozing in content, the price and quality do put this title over as a serious contender for a perfect introductory Shmup for newcomers or a great snack before a hardcore player’s next conquest.


Platforms: Nintendo Switch, XBox, PlayStation 4|5

If you would like to see more Shooters, you may be interested in our review of Cotton Reboot.

Many thanks go to EastAsiaSoft for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

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