Some May Call It Strange, I Just Call It a Good First-person Adeventure
Zeno Clash II, like its predecessor, is completely and totally absurd. It's the kind of game where a two-headed baboon is mounted on a giant buzzard that vomits fireballs while laser beams chase you across a giant bridge. Yeah, it's that kind of spontaneous absurdity that holds this brawler together to push you through the 8 hour campaign. Some might call it strange, some might call it bizarre; I just call it a pretty damn good first-person adventure.
The truth is, the fantastical land of Zenozoik is just as surreal as it is bizarre and strange; and, at times, you might feel like the game was plucked straight out of the mind of Salvador Dali. Coming second only to the combat, Zenozoik is an extraordinary and beautiful land to explore with hidden adventures to unearth and antropromorphic denizens to meet. If you're returning from the first Zeno Clash, you'll feel right at home and will undoubtedly take notice of the less linear level design right away, and Zeno Clash II feels much closer to an epic adventure for it, but is somewhat inconsistent. Sometimes the game looks downright stunning with a whimsical field of dandelions taller than a man, or carefully placed mysteries begging to be gazed upon that are a treat on the eyes. But, the occasional environment can also be colored poorly with muddy textures or host blocky renders, with the only perceivable reason being; some areas weren't given the same attention as locations important to the narrative; which is a shame because those story-driven locals are quite amazing.
As far as the tale is concerned, Zeno Clash II picks-up directly after the events of the first game. The Golem has imprisoned FatherMother for his crimes and Golem is enforcing changes to Zenozoik that the people find unfavorable. Returning as the lead is Ghat – the son who isn't the son to FatherMother and who wants to remove Golem's influence over Zenozoik. But there's a catch, somehow all humans are linked with Golem and when he is hurt, humanity shares in the pain. In other words, it's a game about empathy… and it also has a side of moral ambiguity of interfering with primitive societies on the backend. If this all sounds a bit weird, well… then it fits perfectly into Zeno Clash.
During Ghat's adventure across the land, mysterious forces will help him only to conceal their motive and these forces will bestow Ghat with a few items along the way to help navigate him through the trials of Zenozoik. For one, he'll receive a wrist band that can harness the power of either the moon or sun and he'll also wield a Golem hand to link object's life-force together. The new equipment is used to advance through previously inaccessible areas of Zenozoik, but the equipment doubles with combat utilities as well.
The Golem hand, for example, can be used to link foes together, so they share in one another's pain, or the wrist band can be used to blast enemies. These armaments play the largest role in realizing Zeno Clash's gameplay; they intertwine into the environments through puzzle solving and make combat intelligent while also keeping it fresh, which is a good thing because it seems everyone in Zenozoik wants to fight by trading fisticuffs.
And, luckily, the melee combat is extremely enjoyable. There are a variety of different bizarre gun-like weapons, which are vital when you're out numbered, but when the odds are closer to even, it's most fun to beat the shit out of enemies up-close and personal. And, beating the squaks out of a birdman is quite satisfying. In addition to weapons Ghat can also call allies to join him during the larger brawls to even the odds. Some allies require a leadership stat to persuade them to join Ghat.
Ghat can gain these stat points by finding skull totems placed around Zenozoik; the stats are a welcome, but small customization feature. Additional options to build Ghat's fighting abilities in multiple ways would have been ideal.
That being said, Zeno Clash II doesn't overstay its welcome and it lasts just about as long as it can without the combat becoming too repetitive. The story on the other hand, well, it's all quite interesting and I was satisfied with the ending, if not for the fact that it left me hungry for more.
Regardless, the second chapter of Ghat's journey through Zenozoik is worth the trip, besides where else can you beat the crap out of bird people in a hilarious yet brutal fashion?