Indy games have come a long way evolving from basic eight bit looking titles to some of the best looking, most creative games available. Most are able to capture your imagination in a way many triple A titles cannot. Others have the ability to take fond memories of the games of the past and present them with a modern flavour. ZHEROS attempts to do this by bringing back the button mashing beat’em ups of the late 80’s. Think of titles such as Double Dragon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Captain Commando, these will give you an idea of what to expect from ZHEROS.
ZHEROS has you choose from two different characters. Mike is a muscular, square jawed hero who packs a mighty punch but is a little slow to move around. Dorian is a faster moving female character who uses her feet with martial arts style attacks. It is up to these heroes to stop the robot invasion of Dr Vandetta. However, why they need to is not really explained all that well other than the invasion, there is no story to speak of. The premise of ZHEROS is as basic as its story, button mash your way through levels of enemies.
The controls are simple to grasp with your four facia buttons controlling light and heavy attacks, jump and slide. Running is accomplished by pressing in the left analogue stick and your gun and shield activate with the R2 and L2 buttons. The gun and shield run off energy which can be replenished by collecting blue orbs found from fallen enemies and within barrels scattered around levels. You also have plenty of orange orbs to collect, these are used to purchase upgrades to your gun, shield and also different combo moves for melee attacks, which not only do plenty of damage but look pretty awesome.
Anybody who is familiar with the old-school side scrolling games will feel right at home. ZHEROS plays out like a modern looking Double Dragon, but unfortunately looking modern is as far as ZHEROS comes into present day gaming. Loading times are actually worse than those in the late 80’s, you spend nearly as long awaiting to enter a level as it does to play through some of them. This is super frustrating, just as frustrating are the character movements and difficulty spikes. As you progress through the game you are required to dodge various environmental dangers. These are near impossible to avoid due to poor controls.
Thankfully the fighting feels joyous, with combos being easily pulled off, along with countering and some slick crossing between gun fighting and melee moves. It all feels fantastic, at least for the first twenty minutes. ZHEROS biggest downfall is the fact that it is boring, what starts out as something fresh looking soon turns stale.
Graphics & Sound
The character models are quite good to look at and the action all looks fantastic with cartoon like words popping up over the action when completing combo strings. The environments themselves are colourful and vibrant, however there is not a lot of variety. The animations are solid so overall you have quite a good-looking game with a great use of colour.
The sounds are repetitious and annoying. The effects are good enough but the backing track seems to be an eight second loop that starts to drive you bonkers within the first five minutes.
The game menu is also very basic. One strange thing is that with the options you can adjust the screen size but even after matching your screen, the loading screen complete with basic tips is cut off. The end result is you have the first letters on the left chopped off and likewise the last letters on the right. No big deal but it detracts from the overall feel.
ZHEROS can be played through solo or in co-op mode. There is no online co-op option, so you will need a friend and an extra controller to play through this mode. I have always been a fan of couch co-op, unfortunately the game just doesn’t present enough fun to sit with a friend through till the end.
ZHEROS feels like a missed opportunity. Many fans long for a return of the days of titles such as Double Dragon and Streets of Rage. In a way ZHEROS does in fact bring those days back to us, just not in an overly exciting way. Long loading times, lack of variety and simple boredom destroys what could have been a decent beat‘em up addition.