Have You Played… Zeno Clash?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Bam! Bif! Pow! Thump! Ooh! Aah! Eee! Coo! ‘Eck! Thud!

Those are the sounds of Zeno Clash [official site], a gorgeous first-person beat ’em up from ACE Team.

Zeno Clash is a fairly straightforward beat ’em up, with kicks and punches in a few simple combos, along with blocks, dodging, counter-attacks and whatnot. Sprinkle some kinda sorta useful guns over the top and a few powerful but breakable melee weapons and… look, it’s fun. Zeno Clash is fun with the face-punching (and kicking, and hammersmashing etc.) but its main impact on me has been ruining most other fantasy settings.

As has apparently been a hallmark of ACE Team’s, Zeno Clash looks like nothing I’d played before. Zenozoik is a fantasy world in the sense that it’s made of wild dreams, rather than having elves and chainmail. I never knew what I’d see (or punch) next. A chap who wears a cauldron over his head and is driven to forever walk forwards no matter what? Sure. A blind assassin wearing a crab as a mask, who’ll attack me by strapping bombs to squirrels? Yeah, okay. A swamp land populated by sculpturemen of shrieking metal, a beached whale with a serrated face, four-breasted vole women, hulking slothmen… it is a game of many strange and pleasant surprises.

Zeno Clash traipses across a wild world to tell, ultimately, a small personal story about a man, his parent Father-Mother, and their family. It’s small, tidy, and personal – I dig it. Yeah, the dialogue and voice acting are a bit odd but… what isn’t in Zeno Clash?

Seriously though, everyone else: enough with the European castles and chainmail.

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  1. Lexx87 says:

    This was quite fun in co-op – back when XBLA was a thing and Microsoft had perfected console gaming. Before they ruined it and I bought a PC and started reading RPS.

  2. Author X says:

    I have, but I never got around to Zeno Clash 2, so thanks for reminding me of how fun and weird the first one was so I might just get on that.

    • Fenix says:

      Don’t want to be that guy but I found Zeno Clash 2 immensely underwhelming. It’s not a terrible game by itself, but Ace Team’s decision to make the world much bigger came at a great cost.

      • rabbit says:

        have heard the same i’m afraid. was so interested in the idea of number 2 but i heard it became a toootal slog as a result of the new format.

        • rondertaker says:

          wow really? i had no idea anyone felt that way, i thought 2 was even better than the first.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      I liked the original a lot but I couldn’t even get through ZC2’s tutorial.

  3. kincajou says:

    Was there ever a WIT about “the deadly tower of monsters”? if i remember right that was the last game ACE were putting out

    • kincajou says:

      ‘latest rather than last… edit button wouldn’t go amiss in this day and age

    • LTK says:

      There wasn’t, I was surprised because ACE Team gets extensive coverage on RPS otherwise. My personal take on it is that it’s good, but not amazing, and if you think there’s none of that quintessential ACE Team weirdness, you’re wrong.

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        basilisk says:

        It’s not amazing, but I’d say it deserves a bit more praise than just “good”. Where the other ACE games (Zeno included) had a great art style and somewhat wonky mechanics, DToM has a good art style and mechanics that actually work as they should, so as an overall package it might actually be my favourite entry in their catalogue.

        It’s slightly dragged down by the fact that the B-movie stylisation is somewhat predictable, but you could easily argue that’s the whole point – it’s deliberately building on very familiar material. But it’s a very enjoyable game and the stop-motion effects are lovely.

        • Sarfrin says:

          I had a great time with DTOM. Above all else, it’s damn good fun.

        • LTK says:

          I actually agree, the mechanics are better than usual for an ACE Team game, little touches like being able to teleport back to your last platform are great for avoiding frustration, and the arsenal and its upgrades provide enough variety to keep the combat from getting tedious. However, none of that elevated the game from good to great for me, it was just enough to keep the game enjoyable.

          I will say it’s memorable, because the tricks they pull at the end seriously messed with my head.

    • Author X says:

      Funnily enough, I had forgotten all about Tower of Monsters until this post reminded me about that as well, so I put it on my wishlist on Steam. About an hour later it was put on sale. Coincidence… perhaps.

    • Carlos Bordeu says:

      We sent at least 3 e-mails about Deadly Tower and RPS totally seems to have ignored them all together. Shame on them…

      What’s the point to talk about a game we released in 2009, when we just released one a couple of months ago? >:(

  4. BorgiaCamarones says:

    Funny you should ask, I’m actually playing it for the first time right now. Feels so good to be playing a source engine game! It’s like putting on a pair of very used but comfy slippers.

    I really like how physical this game is, especially paired with the uncanny and weird character design. I don’t think the game would have the same effect if you didn’t need to go right up into your enemies’ face to kill them i.e. if it was a FPS.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Jekadu says:

    One of the few games I’ve gotten all the Achievements for. Truly weird and wonderful, with a unique and fascinating story. Even the voice acting doesn’t feel out of place as most characters only have a handful of lines which causes it to come across as weird and endearing.

    The sequel tried to be something it couldn’t be, sadly. The story was still interesting, but open world was a very poor fit for the game, and the increased amount of dialogue only served to draw attention to how bad the voice acting actually is.

  6. rabbit says:

    i remember REALLY enjoying one level – it was the boss fight against the blind guy with all the pet birds or something. i think you had a caveman sniper rifle type thing at the time which i remember being a lot of fun.

  7. Jay Load says:

    “Pellum needed to be invisible, so he removed the eyes of anything that could see him…” – ‘Corwids of the Free’, 2009

    Completely agree. This game was the most vivid and surreal fantasy setting since Shiny Entertainment’s Sacrifice, taking weirdness to the Nth degree. That one line above chilled me to the marrow but thrilled me as well; so baroque. So gothic. So very Ace Team.

    I weep for the sequel – it’s in my Steam list but I’ve never played it. This world, more than any other fantasy milieu in years, deserved to thrive but it seems that didn’t happen.

    Boo to Tolkein-derived Middle-Ages fantasy! It’s time Orcs and Goblins and Elves took a well deserved rest in the same gaming bin as World War 2.

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    kfix says:

    That’s some nasty looking chafing around that…. what I hope is a codpiece…

  9. rondertaker says:

    i love zeno clash so much i will buy every single ace team game at full price from now until the end of eternity. and if you stayed away from zeno clash 2 due to some negativity surrounding it… give it a shot, i personally found it wonderful.

  10. Carlos Bordeu says:

    Hellooooooo…. We just launched a new game. Didn’t you hear about it Rock Paper Shotgun?

    What’s happened to The Deadly Tower of Monster’s coverage? Why talk about Zeno Clash now?

  11. malkav11 says:

    I love the setting but it was far too difficult for me to actually progress. I think I miiiight have made it to the second level. I got a little further in the second game thanks to online coop, but not much.

  12. FreshHands says:

    Got my codpiece and metal pot helmet, am ready to leave this kak behind and start my very own Corwid colony.

    If yer interested in joining, follow the secret hints in this post. Be seein’ ya, ye tefs!