I’ve played my fair share of games, but when I finished the story of Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition, my perception of weird and unusual games changed. Never before have I played a game that has combined cavemen, exploding squirrels and Rubik cubes ever before. When playing the trial for Zeno Clash, I didn’t believe the game had much potential, but after playing it through, I have definitely changed my mind. Zeno Clash is strange, but wonderful in many ways.
When you first fire up the game, the major point you’ll notice is that Zeno Clash runs off Valve’s Source Engine. The game engine is used to great effect in this game, meaning that the game has some great visuals to rival other Xbox Live Arcade titles, but keep in mind that the game is ported from the PC. This was made by indie developers, so you’ve got to admire the work put into this game, rivalling other major Arcade releases, even PC releases. The graphics bring the characters, large-scale environments and even the strange wildlife out, bringing out small details and giving the game a firm and unique look.
Zeno Clash is a brawler with first person shooter elements. Imagine Mirror’s Edge, minus the free running and add in cavemen. The idea is that you are put up against one or multiple enemies at a time, and you choose which one to focus on. You can then attack them either lightly or strongly, block attacks and evade them to get in a counter and so on. There aren’t many attack combos in this game, which is a disappointment, but fighting enemies can get quite exciting when you have to time your dodges just right in order to get that perfect attack in at the right time, breaking their guard and letting way for various kicks and punches. Some cutscenes are portrayed in the first or third person, and for once, the main character actually talks.
Aside from you, there are a variety of weapons in the game. Apart from skull bombs, which work like grenades, all guns in the game have unlimited ammo. This doesn’t make the game easy, as some guns are quite strong yet slow firing with a long reload time, and then there’s always the chance of an enemy kicking out your hand and leaving you to fight. They are mainly rifles, although there are guns such as one that shoots bombs or my personal favourite; fish pistols. Melee weapons such as sledgehammers can be used against the stronger foes that only take damage from melee weapons. Overall though, there is a good arsenal of weapons, but it would have been nice to see more of a variety like sub machine guns or maybe even snipers, even though they aren’t really needed.
Enemies can vary from very small crabs that can get frustrating to kill in packs to squirrels with explosive barrels strapped to them, running around like crazy. Then you’ve got your average fighters that can attack in a variety of ways, from usual punches to head butts, to even upside down spinning ninja kicks. Then there are the big foes that will try to charge you, plus trying to kill them is like fighting a bull. Ole! They can only be damaged by melee weapons, and you have to get them at the right time or they’ll just knock you onto the floor face first.
You play as Ghat, a caveman who has pretty much betrayed everyone by killing Father-Mother, who everyone believes in the game to be their parent. It becomes clear why you did this throughout. The plot for the game is deep and interesting, but sometimes confusing to follow, especially the cliff-hanger which opens the game up for the sequel. The main game will take you several hours to complete, plus there are varying levels of difficulty and some cool cheat modifiers to make things interesting. There are tower and pit challenges to accompany that, which can be played on your own, locally and online with up to 2 players. Tower challenges require you to fight enemies in an arena. Once they are knocked out, advance up to the next level; the enemies getting harder with each stage. Pit challenges require you to jump down from platform to platform, fighting enemies and destroying floors to advance. It gets slightly laggy in multiplayer, with some moves not registering, but overall it’s a fun experience.
Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition was a big surprise for me, with a unique experience combined with the Source Engine, which to be honest was a great choice, makes Zeno Clash fun and exciting throughout. The Pit and Tower challenges extend the game’s replay value, and it definitely lives up to its 1200 Microsoft Points price tag. It’s so weird that it’s wonderful, but there are some things missing that could make the game so much better, which I hope make it in for the sequel. You want exploding squirrels? You want giant dodo looking creatures? You want a crazy caveman playing with a Rubik Cube? Get Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition on Xbox Live Arcade.
SCORE: 8.5 (Great)