Zeno Clash 2 ReviewMay 9, 2013
Zeno Clash 2 is a title worthy of any gaming library, if only for its unique world and gameplay one would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.
The camera pans over a desert town, the sun beating against the thatch roofs of homes and businesses. You sit in a bar, confronted by attitude in droves, all begging for the beat down you are so generous to give. As you leave, you’re confronted with your sister, her eyes harsh and judgmental as she offers the answer to your question, what is this about?
“It’s about punching people in the face, which you’ll like.”
Why, yes….yes I do.
And so begins your journey in Zeno Clash 2. A journey to punch people in the face. Because you can. Sure, there’s a story in there somewhere; FatherMother, whatever that is, is trapped in a cage and your sister wants your help to rescue her/him/it. Presumably, all of this would make more sense had I played the prequel, which I didn’t, but I don’t care. Neither will you, as you run around, punching strangers in the face. Some will pick fights with you, most will wander idly by. And you will punch them. In the face. Because you can.
I feel guilty, as if I shouldn’t be enjoying this game as much as I am. It’s so incredibly ridiculous, and I’m a complete bully in it. There’s an open-world feel to Zeno Clash 2, as the game pretty much lets you beat up on anyone and anything for any reason, with a rare few exceptions. And, of course, my instinct is to beat everyone up. Now, I love me an open-ended game — I’ve logged more hours than I’m proud to admit into Skyrim — but even there I’ve never run around killing or beating up on people for no good reason; it felt wrong. But in Zeno Clash 2? My goodness, it feels so right, and so good.
Perhaps it’s the satisfying sound effects, that believable force of your every punch that comes with that loud ‘thwack’ or that uncomfortably amusing crunch of bones breaking as you uppercut a random passerby then kick them while they’re still in the air, just for good measure. Perhaps it’s because everyone is so quirky, odd and weird looking, and as a human being I take great pleasure in destroying things I don’t understand. Who knows?
I’ve come to appreciate games like this, pulled off by smaller teams and offered to the public at low, reasonable prices. They take me back to what games used to be, an enjoyable and affordable experience. You know, long before developers started eating with their eyes and going belly-up from over-spending everyone else’s money just to clone the last thing someone else made.
Not bitter, I swear.
Zeno Clash 2 is not without its missteps, however. While much of the weird-looking character models and designs can be attributed to their oddball concepts, there are some obvious flaws in the application of their design. The stiff acting and animation making these issues that much more glaring. Combat is aggressive and engaging, but overall seems to favor the bulldozer approach; dodging and blocking are seldom necessary, as summoning allies to distract while you simply wail on things is most often adequate. I don’t particularly mind this, but the addition of a few more mechanics, such as the ability to jump and perform jumping combos, or some greater variation of grappling moves, could have really pushed combat over the edge.
I also found it difficult to get around in the game, which made hunting for the collectibles necessary to power up a venture in frustration. The in-game map is…well, adorable, but inefficient. It’s little more than a hand-drawn map alluding to some general direction for you to head in, and the minimap is so ridiculously devoid of features that it may as well not exist in the first place.
Finally, the voice acting gradually went from a minor annoyance to grating. This is one of those areas I wish developers were more careful with; either do it incredibly well, or don’t do it at all. Bad acting and monotone voice work will ruin my immersion far more than simple word bubbles and my own imagination will.
Overall though, the Zeno Clash 2 proved surprisingly enjoyable. While I didn’t have anyone to try the multiplayer with, the thought of running around with friends adds some replay value to an already reasonable game. Definitely a title worthy of any gaming library, if only for its unique world and gameplay one would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.