Zack Zero (ZZ) is a 2.5D platformer with a slight â€˜metroidvaniaâ€™ twist â€“ upgradeable power suit, 2D puzzle solving, and difficult boss fights. Although that sounds insanely cool on paper, itâ€™s infuriatingly frustrating in practise - not to mention glitchy.
ZZâ€™s story follows Zack Zero - a superhero (of sorts) with an upgradable power suit. Itâ€™s told in comic book style, with voice overs commentary between levels. Unfortunately, the voice acting is awful and doesnâ€™t engage me at all. The story itself is a mess â€“ the aliens invade Zackâ€™s home world. As a result, one of the aliens dies. His brother, Zulrog, seeks to save him by taking Zackâ€™s wife hostage, and exchange her for kelestinia, a compound Zack discovered which would allow him to travel back in time to prevent his brotherâ€™s death.
Along the way Zack encounters some unfriendly locals, which is where his power suit comes into play. Sporting three modes - rock, fire, and ice - the suit can help in navigating levels. For instance, the extra weight of rock allows you to push heavy objects, and it also prevents strong winds from pushing you into traps. Fire lets you burn enemies, run faster, and glide a short distance. Ice allows you to freeze enemies, and slow time â€“ which is useful for negotiating environmental hazards such as rock snakes. In addition, the suit is useful in boss fights. However, users should be mindful that each ability drains a gauge - they can only be used in short bursts.
At first, you have access to every move in your arsenal, but shortly after beating a boss fight they are snatched away. This is where the RPG elements come in; as you gain experience it can be used to restore the suitâ€™s functions. It gets more interesting later in the game as you level up the suit, thus gaining more abilities. Aside from some hidden treasures, the game is fairly linear - revolving around simple platforming, the odd puzzle, and the occasional boss fight.
Speaking of boss fights, some of their health indicators can be so small you barely notice them unless you know where to look. Larger bosses have bigger - more noticeable - health bars. The fights themselves are rather inconsistent: one level you might be fighting a large spider looking boss with about three forms before you finally take it out, the next boss you come across is likely to be weaker.
Each boss attacks in patterns, however it only takes a few hits to kill you. Moreover, every time you die the game taunts you with an evil laugh. As you can imagine, it gets extremely irritating after awhile. Besides the boss battles, you will need to be wary of traps, and very cheap environmental hazards. Further into the game it gets to fire traps - yes, your suit can catch fire, but the moment you walk into fire, it hurts you - itâ€™s somewhat inconsistent in that regard, too.
The visuals are a mixed bag, switching between abilities changes the appearance Zackâ€™s suit, and environments are colourful, and sharp. Unfortunately, this is also where the â€˜indieâ€™ part of the game starts to show. Graphical glitches pop up occasionally when you change suit modes - something like stretched textures.
Overall, this is a good attempt on the part of Crocodile. Unfortunately, the combination of frustratingly hard boss fights and cheap traps lets it down. I canâ€™t help but think this would have been a great game with better execution.