Zheros is an interesting take on the beat ‘em up genre and comes from Rimlight Studios. You could say it’s a retro game in some ways but what game nowadays doesn’t take some sort of element or inspiration from past games. Zheros is a bright and colourful, button bashing adventure but does it have much depth to it?
When starting out you’re given an option of two characters to play as. The first is a muscular, blonde soldier known as Mike, who has clearly been skipping leg day at the gym and the second is Dorian, a red-headed lady. You don’t get any kind of back story or character introductions and this feels like a missed opportunity. The game does start with a very brief cutscene that sets up the thin plot. Basically a villain has ordered an army to attack a
colony and its your job to stop them, it’s as simple as that. Also the characters don’t really speak, which is a shame as the game has a really nice animated style that looks like a Pixar movie. The character called Mike even looks a bit like Mr. Incredible so it would have been nice to have had a bit more character depth and development.
What I did enjoy about the game is how it very quickly throws you into the action. The first thing you will notice upon starting the game is how impressive it looks, with smooth animations and slick design, even if some environments feel a little sparse. The vibrant colours and world reminded me of platformers I would play when I was younger, such as Crash Bandicoot and Croc on the PlayStation. The level structure is very linear and you soon find that there isn’t much diversity in terms of the level design. The controls are intuitive and easy to pick up. I used an Xbox controller to play the game so “Y” was the heavy attack and “X” was the light attack. “A” to jump, “B” to roll out-of-the-way. RT is used to use your weapon and LT to block.
Combat in the game is fun and you can fight with weapons or even punch your way through enemies. The best way to play the game is to use a mixture of both against the various enemy types. You also have a shield which can become incredibly important and vital against long ranged attacks. Enemies are varied and they tend to attack in clusters and groups of enemies that become increasingly challenging and larger in number. Throughout each stage you acquire RP points that total up at the end of the stage and can’t be used to purchase upgrades for weapons, melee attacks and your shield.
Whilst the gameplay is initially fun and fairly satisfying, it does start to grow stale a little too quickly. The game is basically just about moving through each area and wiping out hordes of enemies. I can see some people really enjoying this, possibly a younger audience, and its great to pick up and play in short bursts. There are 2 Worlds to complete, Sector Zero and the Wilderness which both have around 9 levels in each. The game also has 3 difficulty levels and I actually cranked it up to the hard mode to make things more interesting.
The levels themselves are all set in futuristic locations in space. The overall presentation of the game is fantastic and is one of its best features. The levels do start to feel a little repetitive and I would have liked to have had some different environments to explore or have the freedom to explore stages a bit more, rather than being forced down a very linear path. The sound is decent and what you would expect. As I said before I would have liked to have seen a bit more character development and having them voiced or having cutscenes with a solid story would have kept me more entertained.
It’s a fun game but there just isn’t much to do expect complete the main story. These types of games work so well when they have even the slightest degree of freedom to explore and it would have been nice to have had a reason to go back a replay missions, maybe by having collectables hidden throughout. You can play the game in co-op mode which feels well suited but overall the campaign feels a little half-baked.
Overall Zheros is a decent experience that certainly takes inspiration from past games and genres. It feels like an arcade game with fun action and impressive visuals. The gameplay and level design feels a little mundane after a while and I would have enjoyed seeing a bit more depth or variation throughout. It would have been interesting to have seen more characters to play as and a little more freedom to explore. It feels like a solid foundation for a decent beat ‘em up game and I hope that it gets some sort of sequel so it can improve on the various shortcomings. I would still recommend this game if you’re a younger gamer or have kids that you like to play games with.
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