Have you ever had a great day ruined by somebody else's selfish actions? That's exactly how Zack Zero, a futuristic Buck Rogers-style hero, feels after saving the universe by slaying the evil Zulrog's brother. Here's a guy just looking to celebrate his triumphant victory, but the world around him thwarts him every step of the way. First his girlfriend, Marlene, gets kidnapped and then his special elemental suit gets damaged in a fall. It looks like Zack is going to have to complete this mission the hard way.
And so starts the new 2.5D action game from Crocodile Entertainment. With its paper-thin story and generic hero, Zack Zero may not be the most exciting game of 2012. However, the lengthy quest, amazing graphics and puzzle solving is a pleasant enough way to spend a few hours ... assuming you can get past the game's many imperfections, that is.
As Zack makes his way through the game's numerous levels, he will be fighting enemies and upgrading his special power suit. Although broken, the suit allows our hero to transform into three different elements -- earth, fire and ice. As you might expect from the set-up, Zack will need to use his various powers to solve puzzles allowing him to advance. For example, he'll use his earth form to break down walls and push heavy boulders into place. On the other hand, the ice form allows you to slow down time and the fire form gives Mr. Zero the ability to float on air for a short time.
All of these different forms are extremely important if you want to get through the game, but are used a lot more sparingly than you might think. Sadly, there are only a couple of moves for each element, making them all but unnecessary for most of the game. I found myself spending huge chunks of the game as the regular old hero, the guy who throws a disc and has a sword for short range attacks. Although limited in what he can do, the regular form is able to double jump, grab on to ledges and most everything else you need while traversing the stages.
The stages themselves are unique, though you've seen a lot of them before in other side-scrolling action games. You'll fight through an underground cavern, through a lava pit, over moving platforms and past a robot factory. Most of the time you're simply running left to right (or, in some special occasions, right to left) hacking and slashing your way to victory, however there is the occasional fetch quest and platforming puzzle to break up the repetition. As I mentioned earlier, there are also a bunch of paths you can only open with your elemental powers, though they aren't as complicated as I would have preferred.
While the level designs improve towards the end of the game, I found the early stages boring and uninspired. They are beautiful to look at, but they lack the depth of the 16-bit games Zack Zero is clearly inspired by. As simple as many of those classic platformers from the 1990s were, they featured incredibly deep level designs to toy around with. Sadly that's lacking in this game. Here we have a lot of stages that are not much more than walking in one direction and fighting, almost like an old school brawler. Worse yet, too many of the puzzles are repeated from one stage to the next. How many crate pushing puzzles does one game need?
From time to time there are hints of something deeper. For example, some stages seem to have layers of platforms. That is, by pushing up or down while jumping you may reach a path that appears to be in the background. This is the sort of thing that was done expertly in Sony's LittleBigPlanet franchise. Here you're left hoping that Zack will land on one of these ledges, something that isn't very consistent throughout the course of the game.
Zack Zero stumbles through his adventure to save his beautiful girlfriend. Unfortunately, the game's puzzles are too simple and the story is never compelling. On the other hand, the graphics are incredible and there's a lot of variety to the stage backgrounds. Fans of 16-bit platformers will get a kick out of some of the concepts, but you're better off finding a Sega Genesis on eBay!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!