Zack Zero Review
A compelling platformer that could get better.
Zack Zero is the first project from the 2008-formed Crocodile Entertainment. As it’s the company’s first project, it’s been a labor of love with plenty of restless nights I’m sure. The company started posting screenshots and concept art of the game back in 2009, and it’s finally come to the Playstation Store. So is this a game that’s worth your attention? Frankly, yes.
The game revolves around our hero Zack Zero (that rhymes!), who’s on a quest to rescue his beloved Marlene who’s been captured by the evil Zulrog who’s trying to obtain some sort of time-travelling substance. Yes, I really didn’t bat an eyelid for the story either, so thankfully there’s not much of it to absorb in the game. You travel to Zulrog’s home planet and move through a variety of impressively detailed environments in your quest to save your damsel in distress. Of course this isn’t a ‘Tarzan rescuing Jane’ kind of mission – Zack means serious business, and comes fashionably kitted in a super suit that grants him control of the elements of fire, ice, and rock. While the opening level has your suit at maximum power with all your abilities unlocked, a minor accidents causes everything to reset back to level 1, so you will need to power up your suit’s abilities as your progress through.
Each element has two abilities that you gain access to and level up accordingly. Ice allows you to freeze enemies and also slow down time. Fire will let you hurl a fireball to damage multiple enemies or ‘surf’ across gaps with a fiery trail. Rock will let you operate levers, smash obstacles, or erupt a flurry of jagged rocks towards enemies. When using the suit in normal mode, you’re given a simple disc attack to vanquish enemies, or you can double-jump to smash into the ground. You rack up more points by combining multiple attacks, so freezing enemies and then hurling rocks at them will nab you a bigger score. You also need to collect the green orbs scattered through the level, as this will help you power up your suit and unlock abilities. The only downside is that you aren’t given any control over which abilities you get to unlock – they’re automatically unlocked and assigned to you which is a bit frustrating, as I would have liked to gain the ability to freeze enemies earlier on in the game rather than later.
While the platform element will seem familiar, it’s the game’s locations that really steal the show. Gorgeous and vividly designed levels pop out on screen, with enemies scrambling to attack you from both the background and foreground. The levels will have you looking for hidden doors and treasure, avoiding spikes and killer lizards, and riding wind shafts to name a few. There’s plenty of variety in the action than just running left or right, and some of the later levels employ some backtracking to unlock doors or solve puzzles. At the end of each level you’re faced with a boss encounter, and once you’ve worked out the attack pattern it’s a fairly straightforward affair to dispose of them.
But while the game offers a good run for your money, there are some flaws that I just couldn’t ignore. The game likes to occasionally use depth to confuse the heck out of you, so in certain parts you have to jump onto higher platforms that are actually set in the background of the level. Mastering the art of getting onto these areas will take practise, as there were countless times where Zack would just simply not climb onto a platform that was clearly within reach, and instead plummeted to his doom. You also get to collect some sort of jellybeans when you defeat enemies, both for health and for scoring points, but these run away from Zack at an evil pace so it’s truly frustrating at times when you’re desperate for a health boost.
These issues aside, Zack Zero is the platformer that no one has heard about yet but everyone needs to try out. It’s a bold project from a fledgling studio, and for the most part it offers a satisfying platformer experience for anyone looking to relive the classic platformer gaming experience.