by Preston Dozsa
previewed on PC
There is no way that I could talk about Zeno Clash 2 without making it sound like Iíve just taken a hit of acid. Donít believe me? Hereís a quick plot summary of the original game, for those who havenít played this maddening adventure in a land of absurdity:
You play as Ghat, a resident of a town called Halstedom in the land of Zenozoik. Ghat is a member of a large family with multiple brothers and sisters that is headed by a hermaphroditic creature called Fathermother. Ghat accidentally discovers Father-Motherís secret, and he is forced to flee his hometown while being chased by his rather large family with the help of a girl named Daedra. He then goes on a journey through the land of Zenozoik, where he proceeds to punch everything in existence in the face, like any good person would do.
And thats just the basic summary of the first game. You donít want to imagine the finer details of it. Trust me on this, your brain will hurt.
Zeno Clash 2 takes place shortly after the events of the original game, and puts us back into the shoes of everyone's favorite face puncher Ghat. Fathermother has been imprisoned for his (her?) crimes, Ghatís family has been broken up and a new being known as Golem is in charge of the land. Wanting to free his trapped parent, Ghat teams up with his sister Rimat to restore his family and return the world to its original state.
And punch every living thing in the face. Thatís still a pretty important part, thankfully.
Punch in, punch out
Zeno Clash 2 is a first person fighting game centred around melee combat. You punch, kick and punch again to defeat enemies as you traverse a massive open world. Thatís right, unlike the original Zeno Clash the sequel features a seamless open world divided into several distinct areas. Want to go to that tower in the distance? Go for it. Want to double back and explore that town that you just beat the ever-loving life out of? You can do that.
The world of Zeno Clash 2 is a surrealistís dream brought to life. Itís a world filled with colour and life, not to mention one that is bizarre and eclectic in its structure. Plains are filled with a variety of creatures big and small, while ancient statues and ramshackle towns are hidden in the corners of deserts and mountains. Trees and plants of unnatural size and appearance dot the landscape as various humanoids go about their lives. Trust me when I say that punching a walking&talking chicken is the least strange thing that youíll be doing in the game.
Just as in the original, the sequelís gameplay is based primarily on engaging in fights with other humanoids and creatures as you try to accomplish your goal of freeing the Fathermother. Staples from the original are back in full force: youíve got your average punches and kicks, combined with blocks, dodges and power attacks to engage the enemy normally. This basic tool set will get you pretty far through the game, and as those who have played the original know, it is extremely satisfying in its own right. That said, there are times when a little bit extra is required to survive the explosions of fists on screen.
An enemy is charging at you with a plank of wood? No problem, just yank it from his hands and beat him unconscious with his own weapon. Enemies attacking from the air? Grab a ranged weapon and start firing till your ammo runs dry. Too many enemies around? Curse Ďem with some magic to weaken their attacks, and dive back into the fray. Its important to change the pace every so often, which is a problem that the original Zeno Clash suffered from upon release. Thankfully the developers have incorporated more variety to rectify that, though it remains to be seen how well they manage it.
Perhaps the most important change that the developers have put into Zeno Clash 2 is the co-op. More specifically, co-op that allows for other players to drop in and out of your game at any time. The other player will take on the role of Ghatís sister, Rimat, who is just as capable of beating the life out of the hordes of opponents in your path as Ghat is. Itís a great addition to the game, as it allows for more gameplay opportunities to open up in the already expansive possibilities that exist in Zeno Clash 2.
Of course, if you are looking to explore the world yourself without wondering where your partner has run off to this time, there is the option to have Rimat be an AI partner instead. No matter which choice you prefer, the mere inclusion of co-op suggests that the developers are listening to player feedback, and taking appropriate steps to make sure fans of the franchise come back wanting more.
The oddity of 2013
Zeno Clash 2 is quite possibly the strangest game that will be released in 2013. It might not have Triple-A production values or a massive audience waiting for its release, but Zeno-Clash 2 has enough oddities and surprises that make me want to spend a long time running around the world (the game world, I hope -Ed), punching every living creature as I go.