Zero Reflex is a bullet-hell action and indie 2D game where players dodge oncoming projectiles by navigating their cursor around the screen. Players can dodge projectiles by moving along the assigned circle around ‘the eye’, the one responsible for countless deaths as various giant snakes, robotic tentacles and other abstract projectiles are thrown around the screen. The game was developed by Exordium Games and published by Neko Entertainment. The initial game Zero Reflex was released on the 5th November 2015, with the new Black Eye Edition released on the 19th May 2016.
Black Eye Edition adds new content to the game such as a new Psychedelic mode, 5 new levels with mechanics which adds to a total of 25 levels per run on Zero Reflex. With additional modes such as a training mode to practice and 4 difficulty levels which punish players the further they progress into the campaign of the game.
Firstly, the gameplay and mechanics of Zero Reflex feels refreshing and unique to stand out in the bullet hell genre. With the Black Eye edition adding a variety of difficulties, the amount of projectiles and environment hazards cause more mayhem for the more experienced bull-hell players to enjoy. However, while the game offers a variety of difficulties and two additional modes (training and psychedelic). Zero Reflex suffers from a flawed punishment system; the problem the game suffers is from the lack of difficulty curve. For example, projectiles do not change pattern, but only fire faster while taking a life away. While Normal difficulty allows three hits before the player dies, additional difficulties allow for less hits and no noticeable fundamental change in the mechanics as projectiles do not change path but merely fire faster. This transition from difficulties therefore does not add much variety of gameplay or challenge. In fact, the punishment system for when players die – to play the previous level all over again, becomes repetitive and actually takes away from the replayability of the game. As players are forced to play through the same levels they have just complete, just to reach the point they were at previously. Zero Reflex thus emphasizes good gameplay but mechanics that quickly become repetitive.
Gameplay aside, Zero Reflex does provide great graphics and environments into the game. With the Black Edition, levels become lucid and psychedelic to play. The minimalistic graphics really adds to the game as environments are simple and most importantly do not interact or emerge with the projectiles players often dodge. With the psychedelic mode, Zero Reflex definitely has graphics to contest with other indie games because it offers a visual aesthetic that makes the bullet-hell game memorable. Along with the graphics, the music adds a breath of life into the game as the combination of fast-paced music along with the minimalistic graphics adds to the experience Zero Reflex offers.
Lastly, the game has a good performance and runs smoothly. The controls in-game are very simplistic with players having multiple choices in how they navigate the levels. Whether using arrow keys or the ASDW scheme. However, the functionality of the in-game menu was subpar as selecting game modes or even exiting the game was difficult, hovering the cursor over the mode does not select it, in fact holding it several inches away usually does the trick. While the controls in-game offer simplicity for the gameplay, the navigation in the game menu is horrible and looks like it is in need of a fix.
In conclusion Zero Reflex is a game that offers fun for a couple of hours. With the Black Eye edition, the game has more visual eye candy and more content but ultimately still suffers from the flawed punishment system which becomes repetitive and frustrating. While the various difficulties should offer some replayability, the mechanics miss the mark as the game design feels lazy. The game does offer fun gameplay, content and is worth the price. Specially with the Black Eye edition that has enjoyable minimalistic graphics and music to add that chaotic atmosphere into a game that depends on reaction time. In the end, players will either enjoy the first few playthroughs of the game or become frustrated with the repetitive nature of the punishment system – leaving them wondering whether the game was really worth it.
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