Star Fox Zero, which seems to be equally influenced by high-energy cartoon serials and Star Wars, is unique, to say the least. But playable? That’s more debatable.
The game aggressively makes use of the television monitor and the screen on Wii U’s tablet-like controller, the GamePad. Players try to help our heroes Fox, Falco, Peppy and Slippy control their spaceship while switching between two distinct points of view. The tablet screen shows an in-flight cockpit view. The television focuses on a grander, more distant view of the action.
Prepare to be confused. Wait, is that the front of the spaceship, or has it been turned around? Or maybe just pick a screen and hope for the best? Nope. The spacecraft just ran into an opposing vessel. Destruction. Start over.
By contrast, a low-cost spinoff, Star Fox Guard, is a blast to play and works best if friends are together and yelling frantically at what’s happening on the television screen. The game is slower-paced than Star Fox Zero, but far more tense.
The television screen depicts a sort of intergalactic base that needs to be protected. Multiple security cameras create a grid-like view, and the GamePad allows the player to switch cameras and fire weapons at oncoming robots, some that roll like soccer balls, others that celebrate like they won the World Series when they reach the goal.
With one player focused on the television and shouting out orders and another dedicated almost entirely to the GamePad, Star Fox Guard morphs into a silly little game that makes one of the best cases yet for the Wii U’s dual screens: Real-life camaraderie and companionship.