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PC Game Review
In a journey through distant and unknown galaxies, you play as the members of the Zheros squad: Mike (strong, awkward and dim-witted) and Captain Dorian (agile, smart and ready for anything). Your mission: defend the universe from the evil Dr. Vendetta and his twisted plan to mutate every living creature in his trusted minions. In single player or in co-op mode, you can rely on your punches, using a rich selection of combos, and on powerful hi-tech weapons, but if that was not enough, a strong and destructive mech will come to the rescue in the most dangerous situations...
Ah, yes… another retro-styled throwback – another beat ’em-up battle of furious fisticuffs. Here we go again! Zheros, bring it on. I’m ready to blow stuff up, jump around, and mash my punch button combos.
The first bit of news is that the game is good to go from the off; I plugged in my PS4 controller and all the button hints immediately changed in recognition. The early stages are easy to get into but not so undemanding to cause a collapse from boredom after five minutes. Gameplay is a mix of easy, intuitive and hard to master in just the right ratio. How do I know this? Well, there was a big grin on my face the entire time I was playing. A few points there then. (DING!)
Zheros is very good at what it does, with a well structured and nicely polished design, but sadly it fails to deliver as much fun as it appears to promise. I may just be incompetent, but the timed Level Five took me four attempts to complete, each try lasting around five minutes. I challenged a friend to complete the same level, and he is still trying - I have no expectations of hearing back from him any time soon. Also, be warned, checkpoints refuse to save when quitting and dropping in and out is impossible; levels have to be played start to end. Sometimes retro is slightly too retro.
I was a bit frustrated by unskippable, stupidly difficult enemies – to kill certain opponents in timed conditions the buttons were simply not responsive enough, which was not helped by the weird, unchangeable, control mappings. (Note to developers: please avoid mapping a quick-response button to a trigger control!) Add in a lack of cues for the timing of button-presses and LEVEL 5, yes LEVEL 5, was as far as I ever progressed in my 3 hours of solid Steam time.
The graphics are, however, very colourful and engaging, and honestly, quite pretty; the look of Zheros will not bore and the graphics and art style fit the gameplay beautifully. As impressive as it looks, though, there are only two worlds to explore - if I had ever made it past the first one. A positive though, is the soundtrack, which is fast, aggressive, and motivational.
And then to the plot, which could be sketched out in full on the back of the proverbial packet of cigs. Frankly, there is no real reason for the slug-fest between the forces of good (all TWO of their best soldiers!) and Dr Vendetta, surely the daftest super villain name since Dr Evil and Sir Bonetopick, who were both clearly unavailable when Zheros was being developed. So plot points… more like flop points!
So where does that leave me? Well, there are no user-designable levels and I can confirm there never will be – I know because I emailed the devs. There were a few joystick issues in menus [scrolls being detected twice etc...] but all things considered this is actually surprisingly adequate for what it is and how much it costs.
To sum up: If you want a simple, well made, bug-free beat-em-up then Zheros is the game for you, provided you can get past the first level. However, if you came searching for a sense of humour, or a plot of any kind… well… your princess may just well be - dare I say it? - in another castle.