|Developer:||ACE Team|||||Release Date:||2009|||||Systems:||Windows, Xbox Live Arcade|
The penultimate 'Z' title on Super Adventures is a requested game that's been sitting in my library for way too long. Today I am finally going to devote a couple of hours to figuring out exactly what Zeno Clash is.
It's the debut game by Chilean indie developer called ACE Team, who later went on to make Rock of Ages and Abyss Odyssey, but all I know about it is that it was released on PC six years ago, Xbox Live Arcade a year later, and it likely involves hitting people. I don't know a whole lot about Rock of Ages and Abyss Odyssey either to be honest, but that's not even slightly relevant. Forget I said that.
(Click the images to summon their full scale counterpart.)
Hang on, hard difficulty has the enemies doing normal damage, but normal mode has them doing less... than normal? I usually go with the default or normal difficulty mode when I'm playing a game for the site, but now I don't know what to pick!
I guess I'll pretend they're labelled Easy, Normal and Hard like a sensible game, and go with the middle one.
Nope, I have no idea what any of that was about.
Well this looks like a wibbly dream world, so I suppose they're only imaginary birds and imaginary violence never hurt anyone. No one real anyway.
Having a body down there is also important for gameplay too. It seems that when I'm facing forward my standard attack is a punch, but when I look down I can kick. I can also use the legs to walk with, in the standard first person shooter fashion.
And that's enough tutorial training in wavy bamboo dreamland with my imaginary buddy Metamoq.
Ghat's friend yells at him to resist them while she tries to open the gate.
"You're no brother of mine Ghat", yells the girl in the hat, "you killed Father-Mother!" Well now I know what I did to piss them off at least.
Though while I was doing that, the third guy had been creeping up to clobber me.
That white arrow there turned out to be pointing to some healing fruits, so I ate all I could and then crawled through the gate into the next area. Well, what I mean is I walked up the gate and then triggered a cutscene of Ghat crawling through into the next area. There's no crouch or jump buttons in this, so it's unlikely to turn into Mirror's Edge any time soon.
So what am I supposed to do about a headless chicken running around on the other side of a fence?
After sacrificing a few more imaginary chickens for the sake of target practice, Metamoq decides it's time to demonstrate a new weapon: some kind of skull bomb. He reveals that an explosion is the last thing he ever saw in life... and the last thing Father-Mother saw as well.
Oh crap, did my guns jam up? Am I out of ammo already? Oh of course, I forgot that I have to press the reload key myself in this. As long as I remember to hit the reload key, the ammo keeps coming, which raises all kinds of troubling questions about what they're actually firing. In this world it wouldn't surprise me if he was tearing out his own teeth to use as bullets.
I was the one who remapped the reload key to 'DEL' by the way, if you were wondering. The game's weird, but it's not that weird.
I managed to get my first few shots on target, and to my surprise and relief found that humanoid enemies react to being shot! Then I found that my guns were clicking empty and as I was slowly backing away during the reload animation one of them ran up and elbow barged the guns clear out of my hands.
Right then, fist fighting it is.
My sister Rimat's back up again and she's still pissed off about the hat thing. It seems she's also learned a couple of things in the five minutes since we last fought, so I guess I'm not the only one who gets tutorials in their sleep. After ducking under my clumsy right jab, she countered with a spinning handstand kick, which is bloody hard to screen cap unfortunately. It hurt a fair bit too.
As I was busy focusing on hat girl one of the others went to grab my pistols, so I had to quickly resolve that situation before it became a problem. They're pretty capable of bothering me at mid-range even without a gun though, as they pick up small stones and throw them at me.
The animation in the cutscenes is better than I would've expected really (not that there's much of it), though Deadra's voice acting is a little off. I wouldn't say she's terrible, in fact the fact that she sounds like a friend of the developers dragged in to do a voice actually kind of suits the weirdness, but apparently someone had an issue with it, as the role was recast for the Xbox 360's Ultimate Edition port.
This weapon I've got here isn't a crossbow by the way, it actually fires tiny heads, attached to the horns via their nose rings. Though that's not so weird if you've seen the developer's later game Rock of Ages, which is all about weird stone balls with faces. Somehow I'm more bothered by the way the base of this gun looks like something manufactured in our world. It has all kinds of implications.
Oh this is what the gun looks like when I'm aiming down the sights by the way.
Well that was another short level; pretty much more of a longer, narrower fighting arena actually. Imagine what you're seeing here repeated six times over. The stages in this all seem to be separate and tiny; exclusively about short bursts of combat with zero scope for exploration.
Unfortunately this is a forest of crazy people, as Ghat eventually gets around to revealing. He actually lived here for a while, hanging out with the crazy people, as he respects their freedom. They're not slaves to mundane concepts like common sense, morality or basic bodily needs like hunger. So basically they keep dying off in really dumb ways. Either that or get they eaten by the bloke who isn't a slave to not being able to eat you.
I've been given a stick and strongly encouraged to use it here as he's immune to regular attacks.
Oh crap he's going to charge right at me!
FOUR ATTEMPTS LATER.
I recovered some health and boldly stepped back into the fray with renewed determination and optimism. Then I got the shit kicked out of me again in seconds. Oh fuck it, I'm taking a break for a while.
HALF AN HOUR LATER.
Okay I think I see what I need to do here now, or at least I've figured out the timing of it. The bat is incredibly slow so to take this heavyweight down I need to time my swing just right, hitting the mouse button before he passes that boulder on the right.
Too fast and I swing at empty air, too slow and I'll have to go off and pick up my bat again, along with my teeth.
SOME TIME LATER.
Don't be fooled by that open landscape by the way, I'm still trapped on a narrow path.
|Some of the names may have been changed a little to respect people's privacy.|
I can choose to go up into the tower, or down into the pit, but I think I'll try ascending for now. I'm not sure either path's going to take me anywhere I want to go, but at least this way I might get a better view.
I've been taught a number of advanced fighting techniques in the main campaign, so now I know how to dodge, deflect punches, perform running elbow barges... all kinds of things. I'm still waiting for the game to tell me how to grab hold of those metal rods and slam them through his earholes though.
The trouble is that I still suck at fighting, so I'm going to stick with the basics and keeping throwing punches until they stop walking into them. If they block I'll throw in a heavy punch to break it. Don't worry, I'm sure the higher floors probably require some actual skill.
The first person fighting genre isn't exactly overcrowded so don't think I'm rating the game too high here when I say this, but Zeno Clash is easily one of the best games of its type I've ever played. It's a few years old now, but the visual style isn't something that's going to date too badly; it's almost like I'm playing in an interactive claymation cartoon. It's a shame everything's so enclosed really, all of the cool scenery really is just background to the tiny fighting arenas.
I found that the first person combat was more awkward to screenshot than it was to play, even with a mouse, and I whenever I got my ass handed to me I found myself blaming my lack of skill rather than the controls. Well okay I also blamed those assholes throwing stones at me from a distance, distracting me all the time. There's plenty of offensive and defensive moves to pull off, but I found that most of the challenge wasn't coming from the bloke I was fighting, but their friends running up to join in. You're engaging groups of two or three enemies at once a lot of the time so you can't get too caught up in stomping the guy you just uppercutted across the screen.
Well that's how it's been so far anyway. As always readers are advised to take into account that I only played the first few hours of it, so who knows where it goes from here. I mean I'm only... wow, I'm a third of the way through already? Seriously? Huh, short game.
Anyway I like it but I don't love it, so it get gets a star. Man, I've got to get around to playing some absolute crap soon or else people are going to start thinking I give these out by default.
Speaking of my alphabetic gimmick, the next game will be the last before I can drop it forever and move on. Next year's gimmick: I only play games with 'Super' in the title. Actually I've got a better idea: I play whatever I want. I dunno, I'll give it some thought.