Remember the days when scrolling beat ‘em ups were king? Titles like Final Fight, Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Double Dragon ruled the arcades and dominated our home consoles. But with the rise of one-on-one fighters, they’ve sadly all but disappeared. Well, Zheros hopes to change that by showing there is still some life left in this once popular genre.
Zheros gets off to a great start with a lovely animated intro and some nice comical touches; it’s a 10/10 so far for presentation. There are no fancy options either, this is old-school arcade style gameplay; just choose your character and difficulty mode and get on with it. You have two heroes you can chose between: the big, slow but very strong Mike, or his colleague Captain Dorian, who is fast, smart but weak . Grab a friend and a second pad then you can even team up to take out the enemy, but not without a classic old school argument over who gets to choose which player! Once you’ve hit the start button, you are thrown straight into the game to battle the enemy hordes. Don’t worry too much about the plot or learning any complicated controls: the old-school arcade action is all that matters here, so just grab you pad and get fighting!
Although the levels are drawn in 3D with different directions you can take, the game is very much 2D in style – just like the arcade brawlers of old. The relentless repetitive enemies are also a throwback to those games, as are the power-ups – which, of course, can only be obtained by smashing stuff up. You can reward your character with extra health, XP and ammo to power-up your weapon – but the latter is best saved for the bosses of course! While knocking out endless identikit robots might sound boring on paper, you’ll probably be having too much fun to care. I will admit, however, that the levels do drag on a bit and you can begin to wonder at times just how many more droids you have to fight before you get to level up. As the levels go on though, the enemies get more interesting, more aggressive, and the difficulty level increases. Your character will also get stronger at a similar rate, so the difficulty curve is managed just right.
As far as the combat goes, you start off with a pretty standard array of punches and kicks. These consist of soft attacks and hard attacks; the first being fast and accurate the second being powerful but slower. As you play, you’ll gather a series of different combos and special attacks – and of course you also have your weapon for the really hard to get out of sections. The levels themselves are all set in futuristic locations in a distant alien world and look lovely. In fact, all the graphics in Zheros are highly polished and look great across the board. The sound is pretty standard stuff but fits along with the game nice enough. When it comes down to the controls, they nailed them too. Moves are easy to pull off, easy to remember and it’s a lot of fun learning new ones. The developers Rimlight Studios certainly seem to have created a nice, well-rounded product.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed Zheros; as an old school gamer it really filled a hole that has been empty for a long time and I would love to see more developers have a go a recreating the arcade experience in a modern form like this. The two-player co-op mode also puts the rating up a notch and makes the game even more fun to play. On the downside, Zheros can get a bit repetitive; the levels do tend to drag on and it might have been nice to see a wider range of characters to choose from. Let’s hope that Zheros does well enough to earn a sequel, because it certainly deserves one and it would be great to see how they could evolve an already solid experience from here.