Zeno Clash II is a game designed by The Beatles after they cosplayed as The Flintstones, ingested a cocktail of hallucinogenic drugs, and then punched the crap out of each other for five hours straight… or at least it could have been. If that sounds like fun then don your favourite monkey suit, jump on Steam and picture yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees, and marmalade skies. No seriously, that’s how visually ludicrous this game can get.
You play as a prehistoric chap called Ghat who’s on a mission to free FatherMother (don’t even ask) from prison. What follows is a confusing set of existential twists questioning the nature of Ghat’s prehistoric world, as his hometown labels him an outlaw and he’s forced to traipse across the world’s various lands. Narratively speaking it’s nothing special as the game overcomplicates a fairly straightforward story trope. Nevertheless it provides enough bait to see this weird and occasionally wonderful game through till its end.
The first thing you’ll notice about Zeno Clash II is its world looks real damn strange. If there was ever a good reason for the outlaw of mass hybridization and beastiality, this is it, with characters that seem to have been modeled after South Park’s infamous man-bear-pig. There’s a lion-bird human who walks like he’s suffered some backdoor punishing, a troll-doll like fella with a six pack that recedes into his stomache and a character that I kid you not is a giant, wrinkled ball sack (with a face).
Character design isn’t the only area that’s trippy though as the environments themselves are equally messed up (in a good way). The rath bird fields for example could have doubled as a location for The Beatles ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ – trees act as giant bubble machines, the architecture is completely out-of-this-world and the colour palette is ripped straight from a kids candy shop. The further you delve into the world the more fantastical the landscapes become, teasing you to take advantage of the numerous viewpoints scattered throughout the campaign. Sure they may be doggedly linear but they’re so charmingly creative that any lack of freedom within the environments is easily forgiven.
The heart of Zeno Clash II however is its combat, reminiscent of Skyrim’s hand-to-hand brawling if you could kick, throw, deflect, evade, combo and counter a bald testicle to its death. It is strangely satisfying to one-two a ball sack, then smack him with a double fisted hammer punch and finish it off with a projectile high kick. If deceit is your preferred method of attack then you can trick your enemies into accidentally whacking each other, initiating a separate fight of their own as you peacefully pick them off one-by-one or slouch away from the fight unnoticed. Combat flows together smoothly but unfortunately starts to get boring rather fast. There’s just not enough combos to prevent combat turning stale in the later sections of the game, by which point you’ll be using the same handful of moves to incapacitate your genitalia-inspired adversaries.
Thankfully physical attacks aren’t the only weapons stored in your arsenal, Ghat is also (eventually) equipped with two magical armaments of destruction. The first is a gauntlet that channels the power of the sun to ripple out heavy shockwaves (just like in Mass Effect). With the second armament, a ring, you can connect enemies so that any damage done to one will transfer an equal amount of pain to the other. Both of these accessories add a layer of depth, strategy and some memorable boss fights to what is essentially a very simple melee brawler, but once again fall victim to mediocrity caused by overuse.
It’s not exactly free from design issues either. Glitches occasionally locked my enemies into combat with inanimate objects and some of the dialogue scripting is beyond atrocious, “I crush you with finger. You be shame. We crush you with finger. You think you be more than me? If you have more than loud-mouth, you fight Onpa, you fight me!” Characters also have a habit of switching topic mid-sentence for no apparent reason with enough abruptness to trip native English speakers into cerebral aneurysms. In case you didn’t know, those things can kill you.
But then most of these faults can be forgiven when you consider Zeno Clash II only sets you back $20 and offers a 6-7 hour adventure as memorable as many AAA outings. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes but if you’ve always wished for a solid Flintstones title inspired by the consumption of acid, this is about as close to your dreams as video games will ever get.
- Reviewed On