I admittedly had never heard of Fortified Zone prior to its selection as this month’s game. I was excited at first because I have played very few games from Jaleco, most of those being on Nintendo Switch Online. They were fine. So, I expected another game that was fine. And it was fine.
First, let me talk about some of the game mechanics that I enjoyed. I enjoyed the RPG elements to the game, such as powering up the soldiers and being able to switch between them and that they weren’t just palette swaps but had distinct characteristics. I liked that there was a map system and puzzles, though the puzzles tended to be on the simpler side, especially after you’ve done a few of them. I also like that the game is short. Game Boy was portable and if there isn’t a password or save system then the games need to be short. I also liked the secondary weapons, though I found it hard to find them as the game progressed into the later stages.
What I did not like about the game, sadly, was the gameplay itself. First, and most importantly, there’s so much backtracking. A lot of times you’ll find yourself in a room that can go two different directions. And you can go several more rooms before finding out that you actually had to go the other direction first to get a key before moving in the direction that you had chosen. So you schlep all the way back, go the other way, get the key, and go back to where you originally were, with enemies respawning in every room each time you enter it.
The combat itself, while run and gun, is actually more like gun and run. Too often you’ll find yourself shooting into an open space and then trying to get enemies to move into the path of your shot because you will get hit if you stand in front of them to shoot. It reminded me a lot of fighting the Goriyas in Link To the Past. You know, these guys:
Each time I popped this on (via emulator) I found myself turning it off after a few minutes to play something else. Overall, for the time, it was fine, but it is otherwise not too memorable of a game. I’m glad I played it but I don’t think I’ll ever be revisiting this one. C- –Pete (@dmachetto on Twitter)