Set in the realm of Zenozoik, players take on the role of Ghat, one of the many sons of Father-Mother. Accompanied by your friend Deadra, you must help Ghat to settle an unexplained vendetta with Father-Mother. Learn more about what you’ll experience in Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition on Xbox LIVE Arcade. Also, check out the Atlus Roundtable discussion after the review.
Zeno Clash is classified as a brawler, and you’ll primarily be defeating your enemies with a variety of combos using kicks and punches. In addition to standard melee attacks, Ghat can pick up a variety of weapons including heavy clubs, guns, and explosive skull bombs. The game supports a campaign mode, tower challenges, and time trials. The game features an efficient checkpoint system with auto-saving, and un-lockable cheats for completing the game, plus a character gallery on the main menu as well. For multiplayer fans, Atlus has given players the choice of both LIVE co-operative multiplayer or local split-screen multiplayer in the tower challenges.
Campaign mode pits you in the outlandish world of Zenozoik, permeated by eerie and unnatural creatures, most of which want you dead. The majority of the gameplay in the campaign will be straight up melee, but there are sections where you’re required to use a gun, crossbow, or other helpful item. You’ll meet a small handful of beings whom you might even consider as friends. Those characters will help to train you, as well as tell part of the story for you. Essentially, as Ghat, you know a secret belonging to Father-Mother and you believe that death should be the punishment. Father-Mother is a common bond of all creatures in this realm, and not knowing the secret, they attempt to eliminate you from harming Father-Mother. On the normal difficulty, you can expect to complete your adventure in approximately 4-5 hours. The timed challenges allow you to play the campaign areas, and race for the quickest time while still defeating all enemies, so there’s a chance you could complete the story much quicker if you’re quite good with your combat skills.
In the tower challenges, either playing solo or with a friend, you must defeat waves of enemies within 5 towers. Each one holds multiple floors, and each floor increases in difficulty. As you unlock each new floor, you health will be partially or fully restored, depending on the amount you have when completing the floor. New techniques will be required in this mode, as they weren’t necessary in the campaign, but don’t worry, it’s often obvious, and not that hard once you realize what has to be done. Once completing a tower, you’ll have your score added to the leaderboards, and there are some achievements tied to these as well.
Melee combat has always been something I enjoy, but many games design it in such ways that it is ineffective. If you ever played the Elder Scrolls series, you’ll understand what I mean by calling melee ineffective. Thankfully, this is not the case with Zeno Clash, and the combat feels very fluid and effective. Attacks are easy to perform, and include a variety of dodges and counter-attacks to know back enemies. If you need to get away from enemies quickly, you’ve got limited sprint and the accompanying energy bar replenishes quite quickly. The first-person view works quite well and the characters are animated extremely well. At times, Ghat will be knocked down, and you may get slightly disoriented while rolling around to slowly get back up, and it really helps to put you into his shoes, assuming he wears any.
ACE Team pulled out all stops when designing the world and characters of Zeno Clash, and it’s unearthly atmosphere is fantastic. Each and every area is diverse. Place yourself in one of the most extraordinary fictional worlds you can imagine, and that’s what you are going to find in Zeno Clash Ultimate Edition. Creepy forests, barren deserts , and wonderful outlands are all places you’ll experience when you play this game. The inhabitants of the world are also very diverse. You’ll experience humans, as well as a myriad of odd creatures, unlike anything in existence. It’s all very colorful, and it’s intriguing to see, and you’ll likely be staring in awe at the marvelous design work.
The soundtrack in Zeno Clash Ultimate Edition was strikingly good as well. Each and every area was accompanied by very fitting pieces of music to reinforce the mood. Often, you’ll hear sounds similar to those of native drums, a very alluring sound in the seemingly primitive world of Zenozoik. Sound effects are befitting with the pummeling sound of your melee attacks landing on enemies, as well as the echoes of gunshots and explosions. It’s a well-rounded experience, and without a doubt, we can say it’s one of the better soundtracks for a LIVE Arcade title.
When all is said and done, the 1200 :MSPoints: price tag of Zeno Clash Ultimate Edition is well worth the plunge. Beautiful worlds and kooky characters, accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack, plus local or LIVE co-operative play make this title a righteous addition to anyone’s collection. While it may be a short-lived experience, it was embracing from start to finish. Kudos to Atlus and ACE Team for a fantastic job, and we’d also like to thank Atlus for providing the code to review this wonderful game.
For more information, or to grab the demo/full game, head over the Xbox LIVE Marketplace.
Can you talk a little about your role in the production of Zeno Clash?
Carlos: In Zeno Clash I basically worked as co-design lead with Andres Bordeu and also as an artist and producer. I even worked in audio. When you form an independent studio and are developing your first game, you end up working in a lot of different areas, which can be quite overwhelming, but also very interesting and fun.
Edmundo: I worked in art direction, writing, 3d and 2d artwork, level design… just as Carlos, I worked in a lot of different areas.
Where did you get the idea to do a game of this type? How did you come up with such a strange world?
Carlos: We drew a lot of inspiration from unconventional sources and decided to avoid basing our work on current popular trends. We looked at the medieval punk fantasy art of John Blanche of the 1980’s, the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and the movie ‘The Dark Crystal’. We knew we had to make a game with a distinct style and a lot of visual impact… that was our goal.
Edmundo: When writing the story, I decided to take the term “punk fantasy” seriously, and deduct from that concept what the world could be like: I thought it should be a land without a state or authority of any kind, where every character has his own values, which of course would create a very chaotic society. But I still thought it would be good to have some kind of authority figure in the world to be the antagonist of the story.
The only form of authority which has never disappeared in the world is the natural authority parents have over their children, so that influenced the creation of the “Father-Mother” character, who is the most powerful creature in the city because he/she has many children.
How did you go about refining the first-person fighting mechanics? Did you look at any other games to see how they approached it?
Carlos: The very first approach we did to first person combat mechanics was before several first person fighting games like ‘Condemned’ and ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’ were released. Our first version of this game was developed many years ago on former Lithtech’s Jupiter System (the engine of the game ‘No One lives Forever 2’), but that project was unsuccessful and we had to re-think our design when we evolved to the Source Engine. I think it is fortunate that we designed our own approach to melee combat before many of the more popular melee fighting games were released, because we basically designed this from our own angle instead of trying to implement it in a way that someone else did and to try to improve that. We obviously had a look at what was done in other titles, but we used it as a reference to see what felt better and what felt worse compared to our own solution.
Although the central idea is first-person brawls, there are other stages where things are mixed up a little, like boss stages where you use a hammer or a rifle. How much effort was it to keep things fresh, both from a gameplay and world design perspective?
Carlos: It was a lot of effort because of the work involved in adding new features and also because for the PC game basically David Caloguerea was the only programmer. I really think that for a project this size David did an incredible job. Adding any new game mode meant a whole bunch of extra work from the development team and I still am quite impressed that we were capable of doing all we had to do.
It was very important for us to break apart from the regular melee combat from time to time. I think the game would have been too repetitive if we would have only based it on fighting levels. But it is important to say that we are adding new attacks and weapons to the Ultimate Edition and this will make the combat even more varied and interesting.
Andres: Actually, when we developed some of the alternative stages we were somewhat concerned that the new gameplay mechanics would feel underdeveloped when compared to the rest of the game. Our first iterations of the ‘endworld’ section were a little dull so we spent a lot of time thinking how to create an interesting experience that allowed you to take a break from the hectic combat. Surprisingly though, after the game was released, we read many very positive comments from those sections. Many people enjoyed the change of pacing –even during the boat trip level where the game is focusing on character development and the player is confined to a small space.
How did the idea to do a 360 version come about?
Carlos: We always wanted to create a game for all platforms, but for a startup studio getting a game published on a console is too hard (especially if you’re from Chile). It was the success of the PC game which has allowed us to create a special version for the Xbox 360, and we’re very happy to be able to reach the console crowd with our bizarre title.
Andres: We were approached on more than one occasion by Microsoft before we teamed up with Atlus. The game generated a lot of buzz and the post release scenario put us in touch with a lot of people. We got many requests from the community to get the game on the Xbox 360 and we felt it would fit really well in the XBLA catalogue.
Are you going to make any tweaks or changes based on feedback from the PC version?
Carlos: Definitely! One of the main changes is adding coop play for the tower challenges. We have been asked for some sort of multiplayer component for a long time and we’re happy to be including that now. There are several things we are doing with the game… I definitely think there is going to be a lot of new content to look at.
Andres: We’re always listening to the feedback we get from the game community. As developers we’re really active at the official forums discussing with people who are playing the game or just want to learn more about the crazy world we created. We’re also always on the lookout for reviews and media reactions. It’s important for us to stay in touch with our fans and the media because through their input we can improve our future games. We’re going to be really active in the web after we release ‘Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition’.
Anything else you’d like to tell people about Zeno Clash?
Carlos: The game is a surreal adventure in a completely alien world, and it’s like nothing else out there. I think a lot of console gamers will be impressed by the game and those who might think it is a bit too weird for them: Play the trial when it is out and give it a try. I’m sure you’ll be surprised. Where else can you play a game where the antagonist is a huge hermaphrodite creature, eh?0