ONLINE EXCLUSIVE – All elephant men must die!

First game from Chilean developer is brutal weird fun

Zeno Clash is a computer game with a stomach for the bizarre. The first game from independent Chilian developers Ace Team it takes place in the world of Zenozoik a place where all the buildings look like they were designed by Antoni Gaudi and all the inhabitants look like the fevered nightmares of Jim Henson Terry Gilliam and Salvador Dali.

In Zenozoik there are no governments so families and gangs are the only form of ordered civilization. At the begining of the story the protagonist a young man named Ghat murders the leader of his family a hermaphroditic bird monster called Father-Mother. The story plays out as an intercut series of present-day events where Ghat is running from his many angry siblings and flashbacks that lead up to that first blow struck against his parent. Along the way he meets a blind man who hunts using explosive squirrels a race of statue-men composed of floating ribbons of black steel and of course a myriad of animal-headed people with chips on their shoulders.

Though Zeno Clash is polished professional and generally well-executed in every aspect the art design is still the best reason to play it. The gameplay consists largely of punching terrific monsters repeatedly in the face and though the first person melee system is intricate vicious and enormously entertaining seeing the colorful design of the next area or the next batch of creatures is a far better incentive to keep playing than seeing what the tactical arrangement of the next fight will be. As fun as it is to kick an elephant man in the spine over and over again at just four hours in length Zeno Clash would probably feel much less complete if not for its delightful punk fantasy affectations.

Strip away all of its esthetic creativity and Zeno Clash falls somewhere closer to an old side-scrolling beat-’em-up like Double Dragon than it does to a more contemporary melee-focused game like The Chonicles of Riddick. Like those old arcade classics that clearly influenced it the story doesn’t make any bones about existing solely to move you from one punch-a-thon to the next and more importantly it’s bastard hard. Even seasoned gamers will probably need to dial the difficulty back a notch from the default which is a shame as the world of Zenozoik would doubtlessly appeal to many people who lack the requisite finger dexterity. For gamers who like a challenge and also have an appreciation for the strange and grotesque however Zenozoik will be a place they’ll want to revisit many times.