What is Star Fox Zero?
Star Fox Zero is an "on the rails" sci-fi shoot 'em up, set in a weird and wonderful futuristic universe. Following the adventures of the titular Star Fox squadron, a group of spaceship-flying anthropomorphic animals that are genuine hot shots, you set out on a quest to stop the evil Andross from taking over the galaxy, by blowing up as many of his ships as you possibly can. With fast paced, arcade action, and a great co-op mode letting two players join in the fun, this is challenging, but a lot of fun.
How do you play Star Fox Zero?
Star Fox Zero is what's known as an "on the rails" shooter, which means your space ship is constantly flying through the level. You don't have the freedom to zoom off and fly wherever you want across the planet, but you can move up/down/left/right on the screen as you make your way through the level, dodging enemies, ducking under buildings and bridges, and trying to get yourself into the best position possible to shoot down as many enemies as you can.
While most levels are trigger happy, explosive airborne battles, some do take on a drastically different pace. There are levels set on land, that put you in the Landmaster - a Star Fox style battle tank - while another lets you take control of the Gyrowing - a helicopter style ship that's perfect for the slow infiltration mission you're tasked with. For the most part though, Star Fox Zero is a high octane shoot 'em up that's about blowing up as many enemy spaceships as possible, in a manner reminiscent of the greatest sci-fi films - just with you at the centre. Designed for replay value, some levels have multiple paths you can take, with over half a dozen hidden levels and events to unlock, while each level also has four hidden medals to find, and a fifth that can be earnt by getting a high score, providing plenty of reason to keep coming back.
In a nice twist, there's also full support for co-op play, with one player using the GamePad's motion controls to aim and shoot at enemies, while the other takes over the flying duties with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck combo.
How easy is Star Fox Zero for kids to pick up and play?
Designed in an arcade style, Star Fox Zero is designed to offer a challenge. There's a lot to keep an eye on on screen, and some bosses require a very specific approach, which the game doesn't always explain to you. One such example is a walker boss - a giant spider like enemy that temporarily collapses when you blow its legs off, giving you time to blast the antennae on top. What the game doesn't explain is that it matters which legs you blow off - if you keep shooting off legs that you've already destroyed the antennae above, the boss will almost instantly get straight back up and walk off. The trick comes from only shooting legs that still have an antenna above them - but there's nothing in the game to let you know that, so a bit of experimentation is called for. Luckily, there's plenty of advice on the internet - and if they're playing in co-op with their parent, or an older sibling, two minds are always better than one.
In terms of pure difficulty though, Nintendo have realised that Star Fox Zero may not be the easiest of games to pick up and play - after all, it's fast paced, frenetic, and full of enemies trying to shoot you down - and so, they've done something about it. Although there's still no adjustable difficulty level, failing a level a certain number of times will create an invincibility power up when you start playing the level. Picking it up means you can complete the level, and continue on your merry way through the game as normal - although it won't record your score for that level.
While you do have a limited number of lives, and so can get a Game Over, there's no real significance in having done so, and you don't get punished, or lose any progress should you run out of lives - instead, you can simply choose to pick up where you left off, and carry on as normal.
With nothing in the way of bad language, sex, or genuine violence, there's nothing for parents to be concerned about in Star Fox Zero. While you'll spend the vast majority of the game shooting down enemy ships, and it's often implied there's someone inside them, the voice acting is incredibly cheesy, so enemy ships go down with a drawn out "NOOOOOoooooooo!" rather than a genuine cry of pain - and any named bad guys have a tendency to re-appear later on, totally unscathed, too...
The only other thing we could really flag up is that the final boss does have a bit of a creepy appearance, as you end up in a battle against a gigantic, metallic robot head, that looks rather sinister. Still, it's nothing that kids should be too afraid of - even if it does give us a little bit of the creeps.