18
Dec
09

City 16's Top 10 Games of 2009: #8

2009: The year in which Barack Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize for, essentially, doing fuck all. As far as anyone can tell the main reason for awarding him the prize was to congratulate the US President for going the entire year without being George W. Bush. As glad as I am to have someone in the White House be not George W. Bush I can’t help but feel that the world hasn’t become so warmongering that the winning conditions for a major accolade celebrating world peace are so low. I mean I also spent all of 2009 not being George W. Bush and haven’t had so much as a thank you. What gives Alf?

Maybe I’m being unfair, I mean Obama did also invite a racist and a history professor to the White House for a beer. Could there be a more poignant symbol of harmony than that?

2009: Also the year in which my 8th favourite game was:

Zeno Clash

The best way to get me interested in your First Person game? Try and do something a little different. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy shooting virtual nasties in the face as much as the next man, but there seems an annoying aversion to toying with the accepted FPS genre formula. Not that I can really blame developers. Just take Zeno Clash’s core mechanic. It’s a First Person Brawler, focusing primarily on melee combat. Given the state of melee in most FPS games it could have gone so horribly wrong.

Luckily Zeno Clash not only makes fighting your foes a simple and engaging process, but offers just enough depth to keep things interesting throughout the, admittedly short, campaign. On top of the move-set itself you’ll gain access to various weapons throughout the game, both melee and, yes, firearms. Instead of moving towards the traditional corridor shooting gallery feel of most FPS games though (including genre subverting Mirror’s Edge during its ‘off bits’), these weapons are just there to add an extra element to the fisticuffs, disabling most of your abilities and leaving you wondering just when to abandon them and jump into the fight. Make no mistake, punching people remains the focus throughout (well, with the exception of one on-rails rifle section). All this would count for nothing without feedback from your actions giving the combat some weight. Characters reel back from hits and the sound effects are amplified so you can really feel each thwack as it blasts out of your speakers.

So the well thought out combat makes the game enjoyable. What makes the game memorable is the world of Zenozoik itself. It’s full of wonderfully surreal design touches that add great character. Take something as simple as the pistols. They look like the bizarre organic pistols from the film eXistenZ, except made of fish. As you move through the game you’ll be constantly looking forward to the new characters you’ll meet (and punch) and the locations you’ll visit. The story is strong enough to be able to weave its tale without ever feeling the need to draw attention to its more fantastical elements.

That’s not to say that the story isn’t also mad as nuts. Ghat, the player character, starts the game on the run from his family after killing Father-Mother (his aptly named hermaphrodite parent). Through flashbacks and conversations with his ever present companion Deadra you start to learn about Father-Mother’s dark secret. Also Ghat’s rather large family of brothers and sisters are now trying to kill him. Also he’s heading towards the forests of the insane Corwid, amongst whom he used to live. It’s very likely he is still pretty insane.

This was an impressive debut release from the small indie studio Ace Team. Short and incredibly focused it rarely drops the ball in terms of pace or style. The team have talked about revisiting their original plan for the game and creating an RPG set in the world of Zenozoik. After the taster they have given us this year I can’t help but hope they really can deliver on such an ambitious idea.

What could be my 7th favourite game of the year? It could be absolutely anything. Except the three games already listed. Or the three I’ve admitted won’t make it. Or Ghostbusters: The Video Game, because it was shit. Still, aside from them it could be absolutely anything. Find out tomorrow.

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