Zeno Clash 2 Review

by

If there’s one piece of advice I can impart to future players of Zeno Clash 2, it’s this: Don’t play late at night, or while drunk.
This game is utterly bonkers.

The original Zeno Clash was apparently something of a minor hit for developers ACE Team – it seems there are audiences out there that get a kick out of nut-punching bizarre creatures, and traipsing across worlds which would give H.R. Giger a nightmare.
This time around the action is bigger and marginally better – but just as nonsensical and nuts as ever.

Story

Picking up shortly after the end of the first Zeno Clash, the player is once again dropped into the acid-trip world of Zenozoik, and quickly tasked with freeing a hermaphrodite, bird-legged, pale-skinned, glowy-eyed character called ‘FatherMother’ from a jail shaped like a giant head.

That’s how it starts – imagine what else could possibly be in store…

The rescue attempt comes later, of course, as the player is first taught how to use the game’s fist-fighting controls in an introduction which attempts to tell the game’s story over the sound of merciless battery to an innocent NPC’s pig-face – and fails.

Making friends in Zenozoik...

Making friends in Zenozoik…

After the botched rescue (which involves fighting a huge, anthropomorphic elephant-guard), main character Ghat and his band of merry… freaks… set off on an open-world adventure which sees him punch many, many creatures to death, trying to solve a mystery which makes no sense from the word ‘go’.
That said, if there’s one strength to Zeno Clash 2, it’s the incredible art design – unfortunately, the rest of the game doesn’t stack up to this creativity.

Controls

The fist-fighting controls initially appear simple to master, but as the combos become complicated fast – and sometimes don’t register with your mouse clicks and keyboard pushes – you’re more likely to find yourself using basic attacks for all enemies. This is a shame, as the animation on the blows is excellent, and the sound effects aptly back up the merciless slaughter.

Beautiful. Let's go punch it.

Beautiful. Let’s go punch it.

There’s also a selection of melee weapons on offer and – bizarrely – grenades made from skulls, and guns that use fish bones and black powder. The gunplay, however, is pointless – the weapons have awful range and do little damage, so I’d stick to the haymakers.

Rinse and repeat

Therein lies Zeno Clash 2′s main issue – despite the wider, open-world RPG nature of the gameplay, there’s limited scope for a game which centres around uppercutting midget pig men with huge overbites. It just gets boring fast.

Sure, there’s plenty of amazingly imagined environments to see, and the enemy designs are delightfully varied and amusing at times – but once you’ve punched 200 enemies to death, it just gets old.
Granted, the game does offer a decent amount of character levelling, side quests and companion recruitment, but it all feels rather tacked on.

Of special note is the game’s companion NPC AI, which makes the people fighting alongside the plucky Ghat about as useful as a chocolate teapot. I tended to use them merely for distractions, and not for their fighting prowess.

The soundtrack and voice acting is similarly restrictive. It seems like a lot of thought was put into the artwork, forgetting that a decent score can bring even the dingiest bar-room brawl to life.
As for the characters, a medley of oddly accented weirdos awaits anyone playing Zeno Clash – not least the voice actor for Ghat, who has all the personality of a brick (a psychedelic brick which farts rainbow water, admittedly, but still a brick.)

Your allies aren't much use... other than as distractions.

Your allies aren’t much use… other than as distractions.

K.O.

If you liked the first Zeno Clash, you’re bound to like this title. The game’s trademark art style is in abundance, and though the story is confusing and the action repetitive, there’s enough meat here to keep you busy for a few hours – but I’d probably wait until it’s on sale.
That is, unless you like your games completely bat-shit crazy.

(Big thanks to Atlus and ACE Team for the review copy)