Zeno Clash review

Combining imagination, beautiful art, and lots of face punching


  • Beautiful art design
  • Visceral
  • kinetic action
  • Brimming with imagination


  • Some weak levels
  • A bit short
  • No multiplayer

Zeno Clash is honestly imaginative, a fact wonderfully symbolized by a screenshot of an anthropomorphic rat woman with four barely-obscured breasts. In context it’s not funny or bawdy, but befitting of a fantastic, original and artful world. Characters range from bizarre pig men and parrot people to the disturbing Father-Mother, a gangling 12ft tall bird/human with babies in his/her jacket. Fraggle Rock, Hieronymus Bosch, Miyazaki – trying to pin a single artistic influence on this game is fruitless. Zeno Clash’s style is distinct, and beautifully unsettling.

In this world you’ll be mainly punching things until they die. Zeno Clash is a linear, first-person brawler whose closest peer is Dark Messiah, not least because it also uses the Source engine, but also because of the brutality and physicality of the combat. The sounds of knuckles hitting flesh give a meaty sense of connectivity, and the elaborate fighting system – cleverly rooted in just three simple actions: attack, strong attack and block – cause varied and engaging scraps. It’s not easy, and button mashing will tire your character out – instead you time your attacks, block at the right moment to throw your opponent off balance, counterattack with a kick, or dodge to the side and get your blows in that way.

In larger groups this dependence on tactics becomes more pronounced. If you become surrounded your inability to focus on more than one enemy at a time sees you unfairly battered from all sides. Worse still, get stuck on the scenery while fatigued and bird-men get carte blanche to smash you in the face repeatedly until you look more outlandish than they do.

Other than a rubbish level in which you hit statues on the head with a stick you won’t find many more issues. And it’s cheap, so unless you’ve got a mortgage or some other life-sapping debt, you’ve really no excuse. Unless you abhor fantasy violence towards what are technically animals.

May 28, 2009

More Info

DescriptionBased in a strange punk/fantasy realm, this indie gem is worth a look, as you first-person punch your way through a world of wonder.
US censor ratingTeen
Release date21 April 2009 (US), 28 May 2009 (UK)