In 2009 I began working with Mrs B on her website FemaleGamers reviewing the latest console games. Sadly, our other commitments meant the website couldn’t continue and we brought it to an end early in 2010. I’ll be using this blog to review all the games, recent and not so recent, that I encounter. With Mrs B’s kind permission, I’ll also be posting some of the reviews I previously worked on, so don’t panic if they refer to previous years and months.
Zeno Clash (PC) (2009)
Whoever first associated weird with wonderful would have been proud of Zeno Clash. Offering an unusual background as well as a unique combat system, Zeno Clash is refreshingly different to many games currently on the market.
The protagonist, Ghat, interrupts a gathering between his siblings and their parent – a bizarre creature known as Father-Mother. The opening sequence reveals very little but we do see Ghat face off against Father-Mother with the latter collapsing dead. For this unforgivable transgression, Ghat is exiled from his home and forced to flee into the wilderness with only a female companion, Deadra, for company. Together, Ghat and Deadra must negotiate the hostile and weird terrain of Zenozoik where untold dangers are lurking around every corner. As the game progresses, Ghat reveals in a series of flashbacks what drove him to murder Father-Mother and become an outcast from his entire family. The initial confusion of the story, thankfully, dissipates as you progress through Zeno Clash.
The central component of Zeno Clash is the combat, which plays like a first person shooter but your fists are more important than any weapons you will wield. After the opening sequence, your first step will be a brief but very useful training programme with a mysterious warrior named Metamoq who will put you through your paces and give you the basics of how to fight. Zeno Clash combines the keyboard and the mouse: the keyboard is used for the movement of Ghat while the mouse performs punches and controls any weapons you acquire. This may seem complicated when you first play but your tutor, Metamoq, is patient and this is a good opportunity to get to grips with the basics because there is no smooth learning curve once you begin the game properly. The art of fighting is in the timing of your punches and blocking of your opponent’s attacks.
There are 18 chapters in Zenozoik and the structure of each one follows a similar formula. The opening chapter thrusts you straight into the action as Ghat attempts to flee Halstedom after killing Father-Mother but is halted by three of his siblings. Each chapter will put you up against a group of foes, with the golden rule being the further you progress across Zenozoik, the more peculiar your opponents become. As you negotiate open plains, desert, woodland and murky swamps you will come into contact with native animals but also the unusual locals who do not take kindly to your presence. Every encounter is fast, frantic, and, with the use of first person view, very realistic as you punch, kick, knee, elbow and hurl your opponents aside. The sound effects capture the brutality of close combat well while the myriad of weapons including guns and clubs add another dimension. Such variety makes for some terrific exchanges, my favourite being a face-off with a bounty hunter who sits astride a dinosaur and veers between shooting you with his sniper rifle and hurling parachuting squirrels with explosives strapped to their bodies(I’m serious!) to complicate the battle for you. On the surface such images may seem too absurd to be taken seriously but the world of Zenozoik maintains plenty of realism.
Though the fighting in Zeno Clash offers many options, it can be difficult to make full use of everything at your disposal. I tended to focus purely on attack and managed to make good progress. The game is generous in not making you replay through long sections of the game should you be killed. Fights involving one opponent are fairly straightforward but groups are always tricky especially if you’re beating up one foe while another stands nearby shooting at you! Though bloodshed was not heavy in Zeno Clash, the fights are still brutal and the age rating of 16 is fully justified, so this is really for older gamers only. Finally, the game offers only a few hours of gameplay, which is a shame but at a retail price of £14.99 there is plenty to enjoy here.
Zeno Clash is a strange but memorable experience with the engaging combat system helping maintain the story as the truth behind Ghat’s murder of Father-Mother slowly begins to unravel. While not a long game, Zeno Clash offers terrific visuals, an intriguing storyline and its distinctiveness is to be embraced rather than spurned.
Final Score: 88%
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