ZHEROS – Review

Title   ZHEROS
Developer  Rimlight Studios
Publisher  Rimlight Studios
Platform  Xbox One, Windows PC
Genre  Action, Beat 'Em Up
Release Date  Jan 15, 2016

In starting ZHEROS, two things became very apparent very quickly. First, this game had either started out as a console title or the developers have made the shockingly ignorant decision that every PC gamer owns an Xbox 360 controller and plans to use it to play their game. The second was that I was going to have a lot of fun, regardless of developer control-scheme oversights. ZHEROS is an action-adventure platform-brawler from Rimlight Studios that is as colourful and cute as it is challenging and fun. While the cuddly looking graphics may make this look like something your little brother or sister would be happier playing, it is in fact, a fairly gutsy game in its own right.

The game sees you take control of one of two heroes – Mike or Captain Dorian – in order to save the universe from the incredibly evil Dr Vendetta. Taking control of one of these heroes, players will (mostly) punch and kick their way through dozens of levels, and hundreds of enemies, in order to save the day. It’s a pretty simple plot but combined with a few cut scenes that provide some light-hearted chuckles, ZHEROS keeps things foot-loose and fancy free. If the game is lacking depth and substance anywhere though, it’s in the story, and you’ll be forgiven for wishing there was a little more meat to the narrative bones. Rimlight have gone for a ‘less is more’ approach, leaving the story as the backdrop rather than let it take centre stage, but it could have shielded you from the knowledge of just burning through level after level, smashing bad guy after bad guy to bits.

If you came to just knock seven bells out of some semi-competent AI though, then you’ve come to the right place. Mike and Captain Dorian are as different as they are similar. Mike takes on the form of a hulking-yet-agile bloke who mainly pounds things with his fist and head while Captain Dorian is thin and tactical, kicking people to death with her long legs. Both come equipped with shields and guns for repelling attacks and shooting things respectively. You guide one of these two around various stages that do occasionally fall foul of the ‘background, copy, paste’ formula that you see for smaller titles, but I’ll touch on this a bit more later. It’s also disappointing that you can only pick one hero and guide them through the game – I would have preferred a character select at the start of each mission, especially given that the option of co-op is there.

Regardless of your choice, the fun comes from punching, kicking, shooting, and combo-ing, enemies to death. The greater the combos you get as you go through the levels, the more experience points and energy tokens (used for your shield and gun) the enemies drop. The experience points are used at the end of the level to buff your character’s talents in either the gun or shield area, with a third option to unlock three new combos. It is a pretty simplistic role-playing element and I use that term very loosely. Suffice it to say, I feel they could have let you pick the combo unlocks as single moves, rather than giving you a set bank of three, which you may or may not want.

The combat itself is pretty fun, though basic. You tend to just button mash to glory, although I’m certain you could probably learn all the combos and become virtually unstoppable, but where’s the fun in that? I will say that although the combo system is enjoyable and chaining combos up for bigger rewards is a smart move, some of the implementation is a little lacking and the game suffers overall as a result. There are two fairly sizeable issues that damage the combat and focus on chaining combos – the first being that there is no lock-on or target mode. Sure, it’s not a deal breaker, but when you’re trying to chain something up, you kinda need to not be flailing in the air uselessly. Both characters a little on the slow and sluggish side, so the lack of a target mode is a bit of a blow. The second and arguably bigger issue is the shield. Now, I love shields; I’m big fan of Captain America and all that jazz, but in this particular game they don’t do shit for combos, and that makes your shield incredibly frustrating. On a basic level, it soaks up shots, or with some timing, reflects them. I can totally accept that sitting behind a shield will not get you a combo but if I reflect a shot and kill an enemy, I want some combo points for my trouble! Given the fact that some enemies can only be defeated with a reflected shot, how can you not give me points for it?

That being said, if you’re not some fighting game purist, you’ll probably find the combat and gameplay the right side of average. It’s fun, but it’s repetitive. Occasionally you get some mech suits to fight in which are pretty awesome, and the enemies on offer are all introduced in funny, charming ways. They’re some of the more imaginative enemies I’ve fought in a while and with a few tweaks to the gameplay, you could have a decent endless mode on offer.

Graphically, it is a very pretty game – lots of exciting visuals and colourful scenes. I did mention before that some of them get repetitive, and while that’s true, they are well detailed and have lots of little features and niche bits going on in the background. The enemies, again, take centre stage for their graphical charm and unique look. Screen Heads and Space Cows are among some of my favourite bad guys to fight against, and with a very rich palette on offer, you aren’t going to be disappointed in what you’ve got to look at. The same can’t really be said of the audio. It’s okay, and I sort of say that with gritted teeth and a twitch in my eye. It’s not that it’s bad; it’s just a tad forgettable. I couldn’t tell you about one theme from one level – it all just mashed into one.

Aside from the main story, there isn’t much to do. If you enjoyed the game enough, you can go back through with another character or play the co-op but, to be honest, I can’t see many people doing so. An endless mode or time trial or something extra would have been a good idea but, alas, it’s just the main adventure and some co-op you get for your cash.

In closing, my final bit of advice is to get a Xbox 360 controller to play with if you’re on PC. None of the buttons have been mapped in the on screen prompts (lazy developers) so you’ll have to keep referring back to the settings to find out what buttons do what. If you’re going to cross-platform your game, this very basic level of optimisation is a must. The fact that ninety percent of folk are going to play it with a joypad is redundant – the people that purchase the game and don’t have a pad will be very hacked off.

  • Fun for the most part
  • Great enemies
  • Very nice graphics
  • Frustrating gameplay decisions
  • Forgettable soundtrack
  • Lack of post-adventure options

ZHEROS was never going to set the world on fire but it does alright with what its got - some fairly fun gameplay and good graphics. It's let down a few times and it's going to be forgotten in the next six months but should you want to blast through some co-op with a mate or play something that's more light and fluffy than heavy going and soul crushing, you can do a lot worse than give ZHEROS a go.

Our review policy

Last five articles by Chris


One Comment

  1. Stu Stu says:

    I grabbed this as it was on the Games with Gold promotion a while back but haven’t gotten around to even loading it up. After reading this I might actually promote it up the ‘to play’ list a fair bit. I’ve not played a side-scrolling brawler since the X360, or at least nothing that comes to mind. It’ll be nice to take a break from the larger RPG games and tactical thinking with a bit of mindless button mashing.

    Good stuff, Chris!

Leave a Comment