By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on February 24, 2016
Last week, we faced a challenge here at DumeeGamer.com. We received a message from a planet far, far away from our galaxy. This message read: “Do you have what it takes? It’s time to join the Zheros squad and fight your way through the twisted forces that threaten the universe!” As you can imagine, we are not the ones to shy away from a challenge, so we enlisted and made our way to a distant and formerly unknown galaxy.
Zheros is a classic beat ‘em up, featuring two extremely cool protagonists: The heroic, broad-shouldered but somewhat feebleminded Mike and the equally heroic but vastly more intelligent Captain Dorian. These two heroes are all that stand between the universe and its total enslavement by Dr. Vendetta, an evil genius who is determined to turn every living creature in the universe into one of his minions. Let’s just say that there’s a lot of work to be done. And with a lot of work we mean an awful lot of alien asses that need to be kicked!
Now, you might have read ‘two protagonists’ in that last paragraph, and you would be right in thinking that it’s a game designed to be played together with someone else. Probably one of the best things about Zheros is the fact that you can play it in two-player coop mode. Invite a friend, and brave the dangers of this strange and wonderful galaxy together. Of course, if you don’t have any friends, or if you just don’t like people in general (which would also explain the lack of friends), Zheros can be played in single player mode. Both the single and the two player mode are really cool, but I personally prefer the two-player coop mode. It is as they say: “double the people, double the fun!”. Or, in the case of Zheros; double the chaos!
Your basic attacks are… well, pretty basic; there’s a light attack and a heavy attack, which you can string together in combos. If hitting your enemy doesn’t seem to do the trick, you can always pull your gun on them and tear them a new black hole. Because the alien forces will not go down without a fight and have guns of their own, you can also use your force-shield to block attacks. If you time your block just right, you can even deflect the projectile back at the enemy who had the audacity to send it your way in the first place. Your melee attacks, gun and shield can be upgraded in between missions with upgrade points, called RP points, you’ve collected during said missions. Taking down enemies and destroying crates with precious ore will earn you points. Collect enough of these points and you will be rewarded with RP points. Every stage will give you the opportunity to earn a maximum of 2 RP points, depending on the number of enemies and crates you destroy, or just how fancy your moves are.
Yes, moves! Some of you might remember the ‘days of yore’ beat ‘em ups, like Brawl brothers, Double Dragon or Battletoads. These games (however awesome they were… and still are) mostly allowed you to do a normal attack or pick up a weapon and do a heavy attack, or even let you execute a jump attack or two, but that was it. While Zheros perfectly manages to capture the spirit and the difficulty of these games, it also adds something new to the genre as well. Sure, like in other beat ‘em up games, if you get hit, your health goes down. This inevitably means you’ll have to collect health pickups as you make your way through the various stages. The same goes for your gun; you can fire it as long as you have the bullets to do so. Luckily, these bullets can also be picked up along the way. So far, nothing different from previous games in the genre. But here’s the kicker; by upgrading your attacks, you unlock certain combos. And not just one combo at that; Zheros features an intricate combo system that allows you to do more damage and bash through a horde of enemies more quickly. Not only do these combos increase your chance of survival, their use is also rewarded with points which, in turn, let you upgrade much, much faster. And trust me when I say that you’ll be needing these upgrades in the foreseeable future, because once in a while, a new enemy type is revealed, upping the ante and making the life of our heroes that much harder than it already was.
And if loads of futuristic enemies weren’t enough, Zheros also throws lasers, bottomless pits and electrified floors into the mix, just to spice things up even more. But, just as we thought things couldn’t look more bleak for our brave heroes, Zheros throws us a giant, heavily armed bone: The Machine. As you make your way through the treacherous environments of Zheros, once in a while you’ll come across a fully loaded battle armor. By jumping onto it, you take control of said armor and start smashing baddies like it’s nobody’s business! But alas, like all fun things in life, this mechanical mayhem comes to an end at a certain point when your armor runs out of battery power. Nevertheless, stomping around in these battle suits is a lot of fun and really good for points!
The art of Zheros looks awesome and is perfect for the game; the cartoon-like 3D characters and environment enhance the overall colorful chaos that is Zheros. Mike and Captain Dorian look really cool and are perfectly animated. This is best seen while upgrading your gear; the character you are currently playing as will appear next to your stats and various looped animation will play, depending on what category of your gear you are currently upgrading. Normally, you would expect these characters to look goo in-game, because they’re relatively small and there’s a lot going on all the time. Alas, when it comes to enlarging these characters, they usually fall apart at the seams. Not out heroic Zheros squad, however; they look the part, no matter how big they are shown.
To top it all off, a frantic sounding soundtrack accompanies you as you make your way through every one of the eighteen stages, of which the game is comprised. The first ten stages are located in a world called ‘Sector Zhero’, while the final eight stages are located in a place called ‘The Wilderness’. A cool thing to note is that, when you change worlds, new enemies are added to the roster, a lot of times replacing similar enemies from the previous world. This not only tends to keep the game new and interesting, it also shows that the developers knew what they were doing. I mean, it’s easy to just throw together a string of repetitive stages, filled with the same enemies over and over again. But isn’t it much cooler to come up with new enemy types and incorporating them into the second half of the game?! I rest my case! Actually, while we’re on the subject of enemies, there’s one thing I forgot to mention, and that’s the cutscenes that introduce a new enemy type. These animated clips are not only well put together; they’re also completely hilarious at times!
So, at the end of the day, I can honestly say that I think Zheros is a valuable addition to the beat ‘em up / platformer genre. It’s one of those games that you can just keep on playing without it ever getting boring. Especially when you play it together with a friend, Zheros is an absolute hoot! So, space-cadets, answer me this: Are you ready to save the universe?! Because if you are, the Zheros squad is definitely the place for you; it’s time to nut up or shut up!
January 16, 2016 (XBox One)
February 15, 2016 (PC)
tba (Playstation 4)