Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition

Review

posted 6/11/2010 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
One Page Platforms: 360
It turns out that Ghat’s disagreement with Father-Mother started when he visited the Corwid of the Free, a fringe group of seemingly insane nature dwellers. The Corwid are all quite random, each one doing whatever they please all the time, be it walking in a straight line forever, gouging out everyone else’s eyes to make oneself “invisible,” or even eating one’s fellow Corwids. Ghat describes his experiences to Deadra and they play out like flashbacks in the game. Ghat’s perspective on this wide range of sometimes horrifying behavior is refreshingly relativistic—these Corwids do these things simply because it is what they do. The hulking Gaben has decided he must eat people, and Ghat decides he does not want to be eaten and therefore fights back. It all has a sense of natural order to it; no right or wrong, what happens is just what happens. Most importantly, Ghat learned to think for himself when training with his fighting teacher Metamoq (presented as tutorials in flashback hallucinations), and also learned a disturbing secret about Father-Mother.

The story plays out like one of those creepy-yet-compelling Jim Henson movies from the 80s, like Labyrinth or Dark Crystal but darker in tone. It’s a work of eclectic sci-fi or speculative fiction, wrought in vibrant and distinctly alien tones that really must be experienced firsthand. The music, art style, and breathtaking environments are very hard to describe—they’re reminiscent of abstract paintings, mixing nature and technology in combinations that don’t quite reach Giger-esque levels of grotesque but are no less unsettling. You’ll fight creatures that seem like they came from a fantasy novel, while others are just plain disturbing. You’ll roam orange sunset-bathed plains, hunting alien rabbits in the shadow of massive elephant-giraffe-like creatures. You’ll travel to the end of the world, set metal ghosts on fire and resurrect an ancient sage who carries a Rubix cube.


I quickly found myself wishing that ACE Team had pushed the scope of the gameplay past simple brawling and into the expansive realm of an RPG. The world they’ve built certainly deserves a bigger canvas. I can understand where they were coming from, keeping the first taste of Zenozoik straightforward, but now I really want a sequel that explores the world in more detail. In any case it’s very difficult to discuss Zeno Clash just on its gameplay, because half of its impact comes from the world it inhabits.

Zeno Clash definitely isn’t for everyone. I’m amazed the game got green-lit at all, much less ported to the 360; I’ll have to send Atlus some extra holiday cards this year. A lot of people will probably find Zeno Clash too strange and some of the people who actually like the art direction might not get into the fighting. Still, if you’re in for something different, Zeno Clash is about as different as you can get these days. If you can accept the weird world of Zenozoik, you’re in for an experience unlike anything else on the market.


* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

B+
Zeno Clash Ultimate Edition is an addictive first person fighting game that also happens to have one of the weirdest stories and worlds ever conceived for a video game. It takes the right combination of open mind and FPS/fighting game fan to get into, but once you've been immersed into the world of Zenozoik it's a strangely difficult place to leave.


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