Disclaimer – A review code for Zengeon was provided by PQube games.
It doesn’t take much for a Roguelike to sink its claws into me. I am almost predestined to find some enjoyment from the genre, no matter its form. That satisfying “just one more run” kick tickles my bonce in all the right ways. So when I say Zengeon is unplayably terrible, genre be damned, you know that it had to do a shed-load of things wrong to get such a damning intro in my review.
Occasionally Looks Ok
In the interest of fairness, I want to at least lightly brush past what few positives Zengeon has. Zengeon looks alright when it’s not in motion. Whether it be just a stationary screenshot after the action has died down, or the surprisingly decent concept art during the intro, Zengeon tends to have an attractive anime art style going. When stationary. I can’t stress that last part enough.
Outside of that, Zengeon is awful. Since I have already caressed the graphics section I may as well continue down that thought path. When in motion Zengeon looks hideous. Every animation, whether it be general movement or sword winging, is limp and lifeless. No matter what character you are using, it always feels like you are swinging around a loaf of soggy bread. Environments are repetitive and there isn’t much in terms of enemy variety. The game also suffers from some serious performance issues that make everything juddery and unpleasant. Sound effects are equally janky and tend to loop and stack in awkward ways, and even the music comes across as generic, repetitive and awkwardly looped shlock.
Even if the game ran halfway decent, Zengeon would still be an absolute slog to play. It became immediately apparent once I booted up the game that this was not going to be an enjoyable ride. There is a one-second delay on every button input and stick movement. Input delay is never a good thing, and even fractions of a second can tarnish a games feel. Zengeon multiplies that several times over, making the already limp animations feel disjointed. I didn’t feel in control of my character because my button presses were being registered so long after I had pressed them. It was like being on a pair of semi-sentient ice skates and I couldn’t get out of the rink.
Misses The Roguelike Mark
Being a Roguelike Zengeon tries to leverage addictive genre staples, such as procedural generation and randomised loot, but implements them both pretty poorly. Stage designs are incredibly basic, and while sure, you are technically going through a unique permutation of preset environmental blocks, it all became very samey, very quickly. Loot in Zengeon is also bafflingly inconsistent and not at all exciting to find. The majority of the loot I found consisted of underwhelming RNG based attack boosts. Things like a 5% chance to heal 1% of your HP when using a specific ability. There is very little player involvement here, you just hope that something cool happens when you need it.
Speaking of abilities, there are a handful of characters to choose from, with each one coming with its own unique set of abilities. I use the term ‘unique’ loosely. In reality, every character has a basic attack, a dash, an AoE and a special. Some degree of homogenisation is expected, but when Yuan and Liu are functionally the same characters, it all starts to feel a bit cheap. Well, cheaper than it already was. You can power these abilities up in-game, but doing so just causes numbers to increase, which doesn’t fix anything.
Zengeon is also deceptively easy. The game will kill you like any Roguelike, but this is not necessarily from the challenge, but a lack of incentive to care. I beat Zengeon within a handful of attempts and victory felt as hollow as defeat. There was no achievement here. It was just me wading through drivel until something killed me because I lost interest, or I won out of spite.
Share The Suffering
If you want to experience Zengeon with some friends and share the torment, the game has some co-op multiplayer to satisfy your questionable desires. The game also has a second mode called Guard Mode that drops all notions of a dungeon-crawling roguelike and instead has you defending a core for a bit. Nothing is improved here, the same issues persist, and like the rest of the game, it’s not worth your time.
Zengeon only barely manages to claw its way out of “broken mess” territory because I encountered no game-breaking bugs. But don’t let that fool you, this game is still teetering on the edge of being unplayable. Awful input delay, juddery performance, unpleasant gameplay and a bland loot system leave Zengeon dead on arrival. It’s not even worth the time it takes to hit purchase in the e-shop.
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