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Review

Zeno Clash II Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PC

Just like its predecessor, Zeno Clash II is a mediocre first-person brawler memorable mainly for its psychedelic storytelling and art.

Combine first-person punching with liberal doses of mescaline, and you also might be able to design a game as insane as Zeno Clash II. ACE Team brings the weirdness in this beat-'em-up, a game every bit as bizarre as its 2009 predecessor and unfortunately mediocre in the end. Just like the first entry in this wacko franchise, this game is far more memorable for its surreal atmosphere than its artless fighting mechanics. Although the button-mashing brawling zips along quickly enough to be somewhat hypnotic, the main reason to stick around for the eight or nine hours of the campaign is to see what kinds of dengue fever dreams the developers have concocted.

As in the first Zeno Clash, you play as a guy named Ghat, who lives in an alternate dimension called Zenozoic, which is populated by all manner of creeps inspired by Hieronymus Bosch paintings. Everything here is off--way off. The plot is completely incomprehensible. There is a good tutorial that walks you through combat, but it doesn't touch on anything else in the game. So you're abruptly dropped into this crazy world without any sort of preamble about what's going on.

You begin by helping your adoptive sister, Rimat (who seems to hate you for reasons never entirely clear), spring this lurching freak called FatherMother from the jail cell that he/she/it was tossed into by a mouthless monarch called Golem. Then you move into an adventure that resists any sort of explanation. It is virtually impossible to sum up what's going on here, even after finishing the eight- or nine-hour campaign that makes up the sole mode of play (which can be played solo or online cooperatively). Even the dialogue is incomprehensible, with the meaning of many lines chopped into bits, and with many assumptions that you've played the first game in the series.

Beard, vest, or a combination of both? It's best not to think about it for too long.

Reality is a long, long way from anything in Zeno Clash II. Landscapes are populated by freakish fauna never seen on this planet, impossible architecture, and outlandish extra touches like disembodied heads and hands on furniture. The entire game has been designed to keep you off-kilter; even basic background details are skewed. Roads run in insane directions. Steps wind around like something from an M.C. Escher sketch. Bookshelves inside buildings are at crazy funhouse angles. Birds are randomly tethered to the ground. Trees sometimes sprout trumpets that alternate between spewing water and blowing bubbles.

Enemies and non-player characters that roam the world tend to be bipedal humanoids, but after that, all bets are off. You encounter elephant men, dwarfs in hoods, three-fingered goons with furry satyr legs, giant bloody creatures that resemble plucked versions of Big Bird, and all manner of deformed monstrosities that combine various human and animal features. It all looks attractively nightmarish, but the strange nature of everything is also intimidating, with so many weird details littering the landscape that the huge levels in the campaign (which is far more open than the more linear levels in the first Zeno Clash) can be needlessly bewildering. This is a particular problem when you have to solve the game's handful of puzzles, because it's hard enough to figure out what things are supposed to be, let alone figure out what you're supposed to be doing in the midst of all this madness.

Combat goes too far in the other direction. Like the first Zeno Clash, this sequel is all about simplistically punching enemies in the face. Ghat and his buddies solve all of their problems by beating the crap out of all comers. It's somewhat unusual, taking the standard first-person shooter style and swapping out the usual collection of big guns for two fists, clubs, and the odd projectile weapon. When encountering freaks who want to rumble, you often go into a brief setup screen where you pick allies to help out, and then you wade into the fisticuffs. Punching and kicking are done with simple mouse clicks or gamepad button presses, and are augmented by a suite of combos that let you link attacks into fist-of-fury explosions. At least everything zips by quickly. While there is a fair bit of combat in the game, it's not incessant, and you never get bogged down in battles for long stretches of time, even when tackling hordes of goons.

For a game with so much storytelling, this one is remarkably weak in the narrative department.

More options have been added beyond your dukes, although they don't add up to much. Skull bombs are almost useless because they take forever to explode, leaving enemies with oodles of time to run away from the blasts. The new sun/moon gauntlet is pretty cool, in that you can use it to focus the energies of either celestial body (the game runs through a full day-night cycle) and then blast away at foes. It's great when taking on crowds, but it's tough to effectively use because you have to take your attention off foes and spend a few moments gazing skyward. This gives baddies a great free shot to pound you in the chops. Golem link lets you mirror attacks with linked foes to spread around the pain. This is the most useful of the new gimmicks, especially if you're taking on a small number of enemies or are near a cliff where you can knock two foes to their deaths with one punch.

Overall, though, the add-ons in Zeno Clash II don't improve the melee combat. It's almost always easiest to rely on your fists. Combos are straightforward and simplistic. You can get past a lot of enemies just by doing the old "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" thing. Moving quickly and peppering foes with rapid punches and powerhouse uppercuts are all you need a lot of the time, although some of the new combos--most notably the reverse kick that is prompted every time an enemy comes up behind you--can be useful in a pinch. Some of the more involved combos are tough to pull off, though, especially with a standard desktop mouse. Clicks are often ignored, and single clicks are translated into two or more, which makes some of the four- to five-move combos frustratingly difficult to complete.

Zeno Clash II's collection of surreal art and creepy enemy monstrosities means you will never confuse it with any other game.

Totems can be collected around the map to let you boost role-playing-game-style stats for strength, stamina, and leadership. This latter category is what governs how you can add friends to your punching parties, so you can enter brawls with a couple of pals to balance the odds. Punching alongside AI allies doesn't add much to the game, however. You discover new pals when exploring the maps, but your allies aren't bright enough to make a huge difference in battle except when it comes to distracting enemies in big gang brawls. To really benefit from fighting alongside an ally, you need to play cooperatively online with a fellow human brawler.

If you're looking for something different, or even really, really different, Zeno Clash II might just fit the bill. You won't find this sort of art design anywhere else except in the first game and on old psychedelic album covers from the '70s. But the gameplay remains a letdown, and the few refinements and changes don't build anything significant atop the original game's "Hulk smash!" mindset. This, plus the off-putting way that Zeno Clash II tosses you onto an ice floe in the middle of a sea of insanity, where you can't identify with the characters, understand the plot, or even figure out exactly what or where you are, makes it easier to appreciate the game's crazy attitude than to actually enjoy the act of playing it.

The Good
Surreal, unsettling level design
Some cool new attack options help clear out larger crowds
The Bad
Crazy plot and characters leave you cold
Mostly simplistic melee combat mechanics
Some control quirks lead to frustration
5.5
Mediocre
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55 comments
ReviewerReviews
ReviewerReviews

This Gamespot reviewer is really not too bright at all. First of all, the whole point of the weapons not being as "effective" or advanced in this game is because it's a PRIMITIVE / MELEE cyberpunk fighting game. This is something the reviewer either failed mention or realize. Very shallow. This is not Red Faction: Guerrilla. I also found the fighting to be much more real rather than cheesily 'programmed' like, for example, Batman: Arkham Asylum. Furthermore, the reviewer also stated he didn't know "what was is going on" with the storyline, but then mentioned it was a surreal environment. Hey moron, that's the point of surrealism. It's for people who don't want to think about taking orders from a military commander while launching guided rockets ala' Modern Warfare. So.. for these reasons, analogically speaking I'm giving the reviewer a 2.2 for a review almost as stupid as how surreal this game is. ~

nutcrackr
nutcrackr

"There is a good tutorial that walks you through combat, but it doesn't touch on anything else in the game" The tutorial includes background story information for the first game. It informs new players about your siblings and your adventure. It may not have been best to put this when you are trying to master combos, but it's there.

Very little is mentioned in this review about how the open areas improve combat. You won't be backed into a small space and need to beat people like the first game. I didn't really have problems with enemies punching my while using the gauntlet either. I think the tools are game changes, completely altering the combat approach. Linking enemies and doing twice the punch power is awesome. The first game was rather mediocre and the story is still problematic, but I think this game is much better than its predecessor.  

devastator1991
devastator1991

Funny, I thought Gamespot liked games with no gameplay and no story, why else did one win game of the year last year? lmfao This should be a 10 out of 10 by Gamesport standards. smh

Warsilver
Warsilver

If the combat and story were better, this would have been a must buy for me.

falcoxfm
falcoxfm

im so proud of my country making games like this. go chile, GO!

kozzy1234
kozzy1234

First game was a fantastic indie game

SamoanGrind
SamoanGrind

Too crazy, I have to go to sleep sometime.

Zevvion
Zevvion

Simplistic melee combat? Dude, this is the most advanced first person melee combat I've seen so far. The only thing that comes close that I can recall is Breakdown.

There are even juggle combo's in this that require finesse to pull off.

DrYnot
DrYnot

The first one was actually pretty good and this looks to be more of the same. Really decent combat system, solid story and bananas visuals. I'll buy it when it's on sale mostly because I can't justify spending twenty dollars on a nine hour game. I mostly just play WRPG's to begin with so I rate length and depth.

MikeDrawsALot
MikeDrawsALot

Wait, what? You've rated this game as "Mediocre"? Am I going crazy? From what I could tell from the review, this is anything BUT mediocre.

hydn631
hydn631

You have to have played the first game for the dialogue and plot of this one to make any sense. What is wrong with that? What???? This is a crazy game. A lot of people play this game for its crazy factor. It sounds as if they dislike the idea of a game based on craziness and dislike the series overall. I have not played number 2 yet, but if it even resembles number 1 then it will be a crazy blast; good, simple and bizarre in most moments, difficult and surprising in its best.  Give them a shot if your looking for a different type of brawler or just a good crazy game.

Newkayn
Newkayn

Terrible review. I disagree in almost all fronts, and more specifically, the plot. While it is not spoon-fed, it gets explained and doesn't leave holes. The origin of the setting and its inhabitants is even discovered in a sidequest. This makes me believe the reviewer didn't put any effort and played the game with a closed mind.

ZRavN
ZRavN

WTF this game has some of the best first person melee combat out there.... and a cool art design.... and a budget price.

Deadly_Nemesis
Deadly_Nemesis

I have to say though, the art style had me intrigued. Gonna have to hear see some more reviews though.

Deadly_Nemesis
Deadly_Nemesis

Man from first glimpse at that thumbnail I thought that was a screen capture from Morrowind, then I looked a little more and realised their fists weren't squares.

LE5LO
LE5LO

"GOTY! 10/10!" - Hieronymus Bosch

"Inspiring!" - Salvadore Dali

"Hmmm..." - Everybody else.

CursedCheetos
CursedCheetos

I wouldn't consider the first game as "mediocre", it had a good reception (has a 77 avg on metacritic), just sayin'...

This one seems similar, but with better graphics and an open world setting.

maki206
maki206

what is skyrim if combat is simplistic??

mystwade
mystwade

Condemned 2 now that´s a game with really good first person beat-um-up mechanics...and aamazing atmosphere and sound design

Caldrin
Caldrin

Well I cant remember the combat being simplistic in the first one.. so I cant see how they could ahve messed it up for the second.. I thought the melee system was probally one of the best i have seen in an fps.. was hoping for more of the same.. might just wait until its on sale i guess.

kmilo_rws
kmilo_rws

I'll buy it anyway. Gotta support game development in my country! :D

Wensea10
Wensea10

From what I am seeing it looks like this game is really trying to be like it is predecessor but oh well...

Blade_Runner22
Blade_Runner22

According to this review... seems like my cup of tea :)

nate1222
nate1222

I would play this just to piss off Gamespot's snobby reviewers.

JustPlainLucas
JustPlainLucas

Wow, Brett Todd sounds exactly like Kevin VanOrd!

travisstaggs
travisstaggs

I would play this just for the art style.

Bigg_Boi
Bigg_Boi

This would be A-grade surrealist art, but I certainly wouldn't want to play it.

Atheosis
Atheosis

The people who design these games are far better at doing drugs than making games.

LazyGamerX
LazyGamerX

ugh this game looks so disgusting, the kind of thing that'd make you sick too look at.

psx_warrior
psx_warrior

@ReviewerReviews I agree whole heartedly with you.  I played a demo of the first game, and I loved it!  The combat is much better than the seemingly scripted combat in the Arkham games.

m_bd89
m_bd89

@falcoxfm You should be. Forget the reviewers, this game is amazing. If people aren't sure about it they should wait for the price to drop. But absolutely everyone should give Zeno Clash 1 and 2 a shot

Dexyu
Dexyu

@kozzy1234 i agree and the story was way better u are banished and wonder the planet

Zevvion
Zevvion

@DrYnot I never quite understood the length argument as value. There are great games out there that are 6-12 hours in length. They value much more to me than dragged out mediocre 80 hour experiences. 

If anything, I prefer shorter games. It gives me more time to play more different types of games. Sticking with one game for a long period of time gets tedious no matter how great it is.

I'd rather play 20 awesome games in a year than 4.

hydn631
hydn631

@Newkayn I had a vibe that the reviewer either did not play the first of the series, or just disliked the first because of the factors (bizarre feel, crazy yet well thought out plot) that make it great.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

@LE5LO I don't think they would have liked it either. Art is about more than interesting images.

majere613
majere613

@CursedCheetos Caveat: I've not played either Zeno Clash.

That said, this seems a similar issue to the Dead Island: Riptide review. The reviewer says it's basically the same as the first game, then docks it two points for no fully explained reason. If someone liked the first game (6.5 on GS in this case) they need to know why the sequel is 'worse'.

e5115271
e5115271

@maki206 You don't play Skyrim for the combat, you play it for...well, everything else. Fisticuffs seems to be all this game has. If it had a coherant plot and stronger RPG elements I would consider picking this up.

Lhomity
Lhomity

@maki206 Skyrim's combat is terrible too.

hydn631
hydn631

@Caldrin Id do more research. While i trust gamespot, not every review they do is spot on.

pcty
pcty

@MateykoSlamHave you ever tried one of their empanadillas?

BradBurns
BradBurns

@Bigg_Boi 

I wish I could play it, but the original never came out for the PS3. Now's my chance. 

"Erminia peed on herself and starved to death anonymously. And that is..what Erminia did."

hydn631
hydn631

@e5115271 @maki206 Im going to assume it has a coherent plot, but you have to have played the first game. The clip in the video review that was supposed to show how nonsensical the plot is made complete sense to me soley because i played the first one. And the game is not an rpg. the rpg elements in it are just a spice, the game is about the first person brawling, bizarre setting and characters, and strange but specifically coherent plot.

GreggD
GreggD

@airboard360 @LazyGamerX There's nothing wrong with his comment. I could see a lot of people getting sick looking at the imagery in this game. It's really cool, but a lot of times, also really disgusting.

Zeno Clash II More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    • PS3
    • Xbox 360
    Zeno Clash II is the sequel to the award-winning indie first-person melee brawler.
    6.1
    Average User RatingOut of 53 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Zeno Clash II
    Developed by:
    ACE Team
    Published by:
    ATLUS
    Genres:
    3D, Adventure, First-Person
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, Use of Alcohol, Violence