Platform: XBLA (Download Demo)
Developer: Ace Team
At first glance, everything about Zeno Clash is wrong. It may sound like a generic XBLA twinstick shooter, but a quick look at the blurb will inform you that it's a first person brawler...set in a crazy fantasy world... that's powered by Half Life 2's Source engine... from a Chilean indie developer?!! Wait a minute. Surely there's no way that such a bizarre combination could work?
First person brawling is a relatively young subgenre that's still finding its feet amongst more traditional game experiences, but Ace Team has stepped out of left field and delivered one of the most entertaining (and thoroughly worrying) downloadable games on XBLA thus far. Zeno Clash throws you into a frantic race for survival through the bizarre and beautiful world of Zenozoik, as well as providing several arena challenges to bludgeon through alone or with a co-op buddy. A disturbing storyline and some impressive Source-powered graphics round out the package.
The combat system is breathtakingly simple. You've only got three buttons to master: fast weak attacks, strong attacks and a limited block. Sounds overly simplistic, but a quick flick of the thumbstick can change a jab into a hook, a punch into an elbow slam or a block into a quick sidestep that sets you up for a brutal counterattack. It's intuitive, responsive and utterly brilliant- and blows the likes of Mirror's Edge and Condemned out of the water thanks to its accessibility. Even rank newcomers will find themselves merrily duffing up hordes of bugbirds and quadruple-breasted leatherclad mice girls in no time at all.
Last week was fairly disastrous for XBLA. Whilst there was a pretty tasty DOTW for the taking, Microsoft had nothing to offer us Europeans in terms of new content... hell, even the Game Room update was delayed! Luckily, Major Nelson has overcompensated this week by offering us a solid deal, the Game Room expansion, a bunch of avatar gear (yay) and two XBLA titles. Let's start with the deal, shall we?
Zombie Apocalypse is a twinstick shooter with delusions of survival horror. Imagine a Left 4 Dead finale scenario from a top-down perspective and you'll be somewhere near the mark. The graphics are surprisingly shiny, the weapons handle well and shooting zombies into snow blowers never gets old.
Unfortunately, whilst there are over 50 stages there are only seven levels- meaning that you'll be seeing the same cramped environments and enemies over and over again. Several foes are also controller-hurlingly cheap; though the infinite continues turn the experience into an insane, tedious grind. Several levels can take over half an hour to complete! Still, 400 points is a reasonable price for a huge amount of content that's made bearable with a mate or two along for the ride.
Zeno Clash Ultimate Edition and Raystorm HD are the latest additions to the XBLA game library. Our full review of Ace Team's truly bizarre brawler will be going up tomorrow, but here's the skinny on Taito's reskinned classic shooter.
If you've ever played a vertically-scrolling SHMUP, you'll feel right at home with Raystorm. It's a classic shooter through and through; featuring hordes of enemy fighters, giant bosses and swathes of incoming fire to weave your way through. Whilst your ship's weak guns are only good for basic crowd control, Raystorm features an AfterBurner-style set of homing missiles that have to be aimed using the onscreen reticule. Balancing constant evasion with the need to lock on targets lends considerable depth to an otherwise unremarkable experience.Click here to lock onto the rest of the roundup...