Ahh a 2 hour game. I love these games. You pick them up, you have your fun and you can finally write about them. Seriously, who doesn't love short games?
Anyways Proxy Blade Zero is a character action game (or hack n slash) which puts you in control of a humanoid robot named Fenrir a smaller version of Jehuty from Zone Of The Enders who can't fly but can dash. Seriously if you've played Zone Of The Enders you will find the combat very similar, just on a smaller scale. In fact that combat is actually more fun than Zone Of The Enders because it doesn't try too many things and keeps things simple.
Combat is the name of the game here. You have your parry button X (an odd choice) your attack button marked Y (Classic DMC style) and B is a delay which transforms your regular attacks with standard attacks. Using the right trigger allows you to dash and perform energy attacks.
The only problem I had with the combat were the controls, mostly the fact that X is the parry button. I'm serious when I say that this is the game's only flaw. Often you will mistake the X button for attack which will lead to many deaths. This game is hard and I died to the final boss just because I pressed Y to block, thinking I was playing Sleeping Dogs or something.
This wouldn't be so bad if they offered you the ability to changed the controls. Remember my last blog talking about the importance of options in videogames? That applied here too. The option to customize your control layout is important for a game and I'm still baffled as to why Character action games still fail to do this.
The enemies you fight in the game are very punishing and you will have to learn them fast. Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish enemies from one another. Shielded enemies don't stagger. This isn't explained in game but you'll learn this soon enough. You can tell a shielded enemy from a non shielded enemy by the blue bar over their head. To remove a shield you can press Y after a successful block to perform an EMP blast which removed their shield and leaves them vulnerable to attack.
Stop, you have violated the law!
This can get pretty chaotic when there are multiple enemies as the animation for the emp blast keeps you still for a couple of seconds so you have to be very careful when to use it. One particular enemy I fought pushed me too far away to make use of the emp blast. As such I had to literally wait for it to run out of shields. You see shields and energy are the same, energy attacks used by the enemy are unblockable same can't be said for yours though so you have to dash away to avoid them. However dashing uses energy so you have to be tactical.
Proxy Blade Zero is a thinking mans hack n slash, kinda like a puzzle but which punishes those who don't think fast. As such I highly recommend playing on easy first to save yourself the punishment and learn the enemies. I cannot stress this enough. You will die a lot, health is dropped by enemies but in very small doses so you have to be very conservative with your health. Some situations will make you want to be more aggressive, others more defensive. You have to make quick judgement in this game.
Basically it's not like Devil May Cry where you just use any random attack string to KO enemies. In Proxy Blade Zero, each enemy has a set strategy on how to KO them. The challenge is to find their weak point and rinse and repeat. A concept that wouldn't work in most games but in Proxy Blade Zero, it works really well. Enemies are varied and you will have to change your tactics quick. You will also find some really difficult situations where you'll have to think outside the box.
Proxy Blade Zero isn't a reaction based hack n slash, parrying gives you a pretty comfortable time-frame which doesn't punish players for poor timing. This is ideal as it allows anyone to pick up and play this game which can only be a good thing. Proxy Blade Zero is all about quick thinking and dexterity and rewards players who can develop such skills.
As such if you're the sort of player who loves freedom in creativity, you've picked the wrong game in Proxy Blade Zero. It's a puzzle game with heavy emphasis on speed so if you dislike puzzle games you'll probably dislike this game. I personally feel that the game is just not for me despite the fact that I love the visuals and enjoy the music, the gameplay itself, though flashy just isn't my cup of tea personally. Just throwing that out there.
One system I like in particular though is the momentum system (can I call it that?). Every successful action increases an orange bar which enhances Fenrir's attack speed which allows you to chain even more combo's using both delay and energy attacks for a satisfying finisher. It may not be as varied and flashy as Devil May Cry but it's still a nice feature to have.
As for the rest of the game, the visuals are very Tron inspired which can only be a good thing. I personally like how the textures feel very crisp as does the nebula skybox. It feels like a universe that is cool (and isn't ruined by a "being inside a computer" plot point) and makes the world feel very technologically advanced. The levels look varied. There are many exterior sections, city-like sections and interior sections to spice things up.
The music accompanies it well enough and though it's not the most memorable soundtrack, it has a really nice techno feeling to enhance the ambiance. Honestly, this is a game which requires time to appreciate it's ambiance and is not just about being absorbed into the combat. There are some areas which look pretty nice, as if you want to explore more of it.
Lovely weather... uh I mean nebula
Sadly this is only a 2 hour long game with only 6 levels (I played on easy so it'll be longer on harder difficulties) but it's something you feel interested in despite it's basic concept. I think a sequel to this game would be really cool, maybe to fix the controls and add even more areas because I the tron style visuals just pulled me in.
All in all. Don't go into Proxy Blade Zero thinking you know what you're doing or it'll smack you hard. Play on easy, then normal and if you're really ballsy, critical. I think replaying the game will give you more value, there's achievements as well. In any case for a 1 man project, Proxy Blade Zero is a fantastic effort but I still have to point out the control issues as they were quite iffy. I did have a bit of fun though and the game didn't frustrate me too much (though it has it's rough bits) so I wouldn't consider it to be a game-breaker, moreso a nitpick. If you're looking for a puzzle based Hack N Slash that focuses more on thinking rather than comboing, this is the game for you. If you're looking for something which offers more freedom in combat then this game definitely isn't for you.
However as much as the gameplay frustrated me to a degree (often due to the controls), I can't help but give this game merit as it does what it does really well. The gameplay is fluid and though it requires a degree of finesse to master, it does feel satisfying once you have conquered it. If you're patient and are looking for a game with a difficult learning curve I'd say pick it up as it's only £4.00 on steam, plus you get to support a 1 man dev and I always encourage the support of small devs.
If you're easily frustrated, like me. You may want to wait till steam sales to try it and see if it's worth your investment. It's a short game so you don't have to invest too much time into it to learn it. Plus there are always steam refunds if you aren't happy with it. At the end of the day, it all depends on whether you're into this style of game or not. If you're not just skip it.
Lifespan: Too short