Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition has finally made its way onto Xbox Live after almost a year since its debut on Steam in 2009. Zeno Clash is a bizarre brawler that is sure to take you on an interesting trip…well more like an acid trip. Players are placed in the odd body of Ghat, the game’s main character, in the even odder world of Zenozoik. The game begins with Ghat recovering after an explosion that killed Father-Mother, a creature that has raised the family in which Ghat lived. His banishment from his town Halstedom follows and he is hunted by his previous family into the surrounding environments that are filled with their own dangers, but fortunately he is accompanied by a woman named Deadra. From here the story unfolds.
Zeno Clash is a first person linear adventure game with a well-crafted brawling system attached. The adventure is wrapped up in a twisted universe that is sure to have gamers scratching their head. Is that a life-size, bipedal chicken I’m fighting? Is my firearm actually a fish? Is my mentor the death metal version of Yoda? These questions all come into the light once you immerse yourself into Zeno Clash.
It’s a good thing this one made it into the HOTs since fighting is the main mechanic that gamers will utilize throughout the games entirety. There are many brawlers on the market that could easily take your money so why should this one grab your attention? First off, the game is shown through a first person perspective. A game that is able to pull off an immersive and addictive fighting system using that viewpoint is worth taking a look at. The layout of controls for the fighting is also well done. Light attacks are mapped to the right trigger and heavy attacks are laid out on the left trigger. A acts as your defense since it allows you to block and dodge with the help of the analog stick. Y disengages or switches targets while also doubling as an interact button which gives players the ability to pick up health items or weapons. B is used to throw explosive skulls that are picked up along the way. Now let’s get a little more in depth with the fighting. Brawling is more than just button mashing in this game. You could slam your controller around whilst aimlessly pressing buttons like you don’t have a single brain cell OR you can take full advantage of what Zeno Clash has given you. Fights aren’t always one on one. Actually most of the time there are numerous enemies assaulting you at once unless it’s a boss battle. On the higher difficulties you will have to plan your attacks, watch your back and learn to time your blocks so that you can execute deadly counters.
The movement of your character during the fighting are great. Each punch feels solid and the power shots that land have devastating effects. Ghat is strong like ox. If your opponent is on the ground do not hesitate to extend your foot into their face to send them back to the ground for a few more seconds. Maybe they’re wising up and bombarding you with punches galore. Try blocking at the right moment and follow up with a powerful kick. If you’re not one to get your hands dirty, probably due to that OCD you have, then grab one of the many weapons in the game. There are melee weapons like spears and giant hammers that will crush your enemies. You can also find firearms laying around and if you pick them up enemies will try to disarm you quickly to even the playing field again. Shotguns, dual pistols and crossbows are just a few types of guns you’ll come across. Surprisingly they don’t feel out of place since their looks fit the style of the game.
The game’s atmosphere is easily the most unique one seen in a game in quite some time. From the very beginning you’ll notice that the characters carry a sort of tribal-punk-fantasy look. Actually the entire game carries that look. It creates almost an uneasy feeling while drawing you in at the same time. When you first walk into the forest and see one of the Corwids bashing his skull in on a tree you might be a little weirded out. Your mentor tends to bring that creepy feeling as well during the tutorials. The abnormal aura isn’t only good for creeping you out. The characters you face range from humans to hulking elephants that run on two legs. You’re going to run into many different animals that are altered to walk and fight like humans. There is no feeling greater, and stranger, than punching a full grown chicken in the face as he squawks and rockets away from you into a wall. That is the beauty of the atmosphere that ACE Team has set up for players in Zeno Clash. It is a huge break from the ordinary, refreshing and unpredictable. I believe it will be a “love it or hate it” style, but personally I love it.
Besides the main campaign there are two other modes to try out. Zeno Rush is a timed challenge mode and Tower Challenge has players descending platforms and fighting enemies on their way down until they reach the bottom. Both modes can be played alone or with a friend. Your friend can be sitting right next to you and jump in on some split-screen action or you can play it on Xbox Live with others. There are 5 Rush Challenges contained in Zeno Rush. In Tower Challenge there are 5 Tower Challenges and 3 Pit Challenges. All of them increase in difficulty as you move up in numerical order and can become extremely addicting, especially when a friend is present.
Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition is going for $15 on XBLA. This is a steal since not only do you get an upgraded version with more content than the PC version, but the price is less than the PC version when it debuted. XBLA is full of games stuck with the same price tag, but can you tell me which ones allow you two dual wield fish to annihilate your enemies with? I’m pretty sure Zeno Clash is the only one. For $15 you’re getting a fresh and never before seen experience.
The voice acting in this game is hit and miss. Ghat and Deadra can be hard to listen to at times as they tend to sound emotionless and bored. Interestingly enough some of the voice acting was updated from the PC version after many complaints about Deadra’s monotone voice. Apparently this is their idea of an improvement. The rest of the voice acting depends on how much you allow yourself to be drawn into the absurd world that has been created. If you go into this game keeping it at arms length, then chances are you’ll be very put off by the dark and distorted voices of the creatures you’ll encounter.
The story takes a backseat here. Its presence is barely noticeable till the end of the game. Until you reach that point the story barely gives you enough to justify beating the life out of every bipedal barn animal you come across. There are many questions that are brought up from the beginning and chances are a majority will be answered once the credits roll, but don’t be too alarmed if you walk away a little confused after it’s all over. The game can be enjoyed best when you do little questioning and accept the game and its universe for what it is. Do too much digging and you’ll most likely end up in a coma for 20 years…maybe not that extreme, but the point is you just need to let yourself become absorbed into the game naturally so it doesn’t drive you crazy.
Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition is a different experience. In this case different is better. The game plunges players into a bizarre fantasy world tied up with an even stranger story. It’s a journey full of questions and your fists will provide you with most of the answers. The adventure is unique in almost every way and the fighting is sure to have you hooked enough to try out the other modes after you complete the story. Being able to play cooperatively with others is also a big plus. The story and voice acting fall short of what one would expect from today’s standards, but at the $15 price point you can’t go wrong here. If you weren’t one of the many who experienced this game on the PC in 2009, then treat yourself to something outside your usual comfort zone and take a chance with Zeno Clash. You won’t be disappointed.
[Editor’s Note: Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition was reviewed on a XBOX 360 platform. The copy was supplied to us by the publisher]Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition Review,