‘It’s about punching people in the face, so you’ll like it’ says a character in Zeno Clash 2 as the game starts. But it’s much more than that… The birds fly low enough so that you can punch them too. And it goes without saying that you can punch the plants because they can’t exactly run away.
If punching plants sounds like fun and games, it is! Until you encounter one of these:
This thing is an unacceptable escalation in the arms race between plants and people who like to punch them. It comes pre-uprooted and due to its low centre of gravity just rolls upright when it’s knocked over. It’s extremely frustrating punching this plant. ACE Team, AKA the most famous game company in Chile, are trying to palm made-up trees off on us. Not expecting any reviewers to have a degree in Agriculture, but I do… So nice try but that doesn’t look like any crop that I know! And I’ve punched quite a few.
As far as I’m aware, the Marquess of Queensbury (boxing) rules don’t mention plants… or apply to any other situation included in Zeno Clash 2, apart from possibly the Boss-fights. And even those definitely aren’t fair, they need to be solved like puzzles, using powers and artifacts. And there I was thinking I’m just punching people in the face… F***ing intellectuals!. Just look at the art style. ACE Team, you guys must think you’re so much smarter than us! (No need to answer that obviously).
Ghat, the protagonist of Zeno Clash returns, along with Deadra, the girl with the fantastic hairdo from the first game. Though this time she’s just a periphery character. That’s pretty much all I understood except that (*spoilers ensue*) the people in the Zeno Clash 2 world are being kept apart from the rest of the earth, because instead of laws and authority they have a primarily punch-based culture. Powerful golems are entrusted with keeping the Zenos within their borders, but have gotten bored and like to screw with the inhabitants. One golem has pissed off Ghat, and Ghat wants to punch him. *End of spoilers*.
For a gentleman, the combat in Zeno Clash 2 will be challenging. You could just be out collective butterflies when you’re jumped by a half-dozen ruffians. While punching and blocking, the wrong combination of left and right clicks can unleash a combo which may involve grabbing the other guy when they’re dazed, kneeing them in the balls then turning them upside down and piledriving them into the ground. Completely unintentionally! If you knock an opponent over, stop clicking and give them time to recover . Otherwise you may kick them when they’re down – a good distance. Especially unfortunate if they go over a cliff.
Zeno Clash 2 has a great joke about games. At one point you see an ascetic character who’s managed to stay still long enough to get birds to nest in his hair (see header image). Ghat says it’s best to sneak past him – but the level suddenly narrows at that point making that impossible. It’s a parody of non-player characters who pretend they have a purpose other than waiting for the player to bump into them, this guy is meditating in the one place he’s bound to be disturbed… Er… at least that’s how I see it.
In the interests of a complete review I have to mention that Deadra’s hair is exactly the same shape as in the first Zeno Clash game. I checked carefully, every strand is in place. But it appears to have more lustre and volume now, and we can credit the move from Source to the Unreal Engine for that. This answers the age-old riddle of how to make a sequel the same but better. The combat is also much better than before, with counter-attacks and the ability to strike enemies behind you without looking.
Despite being a low-budget indie game only around 8 hours long, Zeno Clash 2 has even more features than we’ve mentioned in this review. More than most triple-A releases – and a lot more punching.