Review: Zeus Begins

Zeus Begins is a side scrolling Beat ‘Em Up game. Both Developed and Published by The Dude Games.

Story

The story in Zeus Begins focuses on Greek Mythology. Cronus the Primordial God of Time and leader of the Titans devours his children whole. That is until Rhea hides one of their sons, the mighty Zeus himself, who begins his journey to overthrow his father. Travelling through Greece, the underworld and all the way up to Mount Olympus for his final confrontation.

The story is a little hard to follow as the plot is written in somewhat broken English. And there is a cringe worthy attempt at a fourth wall break that is supposed to cover up the lack of sense one plot point makes.

Gameplay

An old school Beat ‘Em Up. You control Zeus as you walk left, right, up and down. Punching, kicking and using your lightning powers on waves of enemies. Not much else to report here. You can smash occasional boxes and pots which sometimes have either health potions, coins or points. Punches attack in front of you, kicks attack behind you, or at least they should. More than a few times I found the kick to launch the wrong way as Zeus seems to randomly change direction when hit.

The punch is far more effective, it can be chained into a combo. Although the combo is generally more dangerous to use. Not only do you knock the enemies down rendering them invincible until they stand up. But the combo can also not be stopped once it starts, which leaves you open to attack.

Each level ends in a boss. The bosses seem to be very overpowered at first look. But as soon as you work out their pattern they become quite easy to defeat. Much harder are the groups of enemies that surround you. Some enemies can fire projectiles which cause Zeus to flinch. This allows multiple enemies to just smack the crap out of you until you either die or get to use your lightning.

The lightning special attack has four charge bars. Each bar that fills changes the nature of the attack. One bar shoots an electric ball, two fires a stream of electricity in front of you, three fires the stream in front and behind, and four attacks all enemies on screen. However this power is most likely going to just make your enemies flinch so you can hit them from the front. As the power of the attack seems to be quite low.

Bullet Hell

In between each stage there is a Bullet Hell level. In these stages Zeus flies around and can shoot an unlimited amount of lightning balls at various mythological beasts. These levels also end with a boss. Although they are also a bullet hell rather than a Beat ‘Em Up fight. I found most of these fights to be fairly simple as generally there is a place you can stay where you can attack without being hit until the boss begins to move when closer to death. Toward the end of the game you also gain Hades’ assistance. After beating him at the end of the Underworld stage. This makes the Bullet Hell level even easier as you have two attacks but Hades cannot be hit. Meaning that if you position it right Hades can wail on the boss as Zeus just sits by unharmed.

Enemies

There are about a dozen or so enemies to defeat in Zeus Begins. Some of them are just reskins of enemies you have seen. Such as the soldiers. Others are different but only cosmetically like the skeletons. And then there are some enemies like the giant which takes more hits. The centaur that shoots and arrow. Magicians that shoot magic. And a few more, the most frustrating being the ladies with whips. As they have a slightly better range than you do. So if you start a combo too far away then you basically guarantee yourself damage. As mentioned earlier when there are groups of enemies this can prove fatal.

Graphics

Graphically Zeus Begins uses a retro pixel art style. This works quite well and looks nice. Although the levels seem to be largely devoid of detail. With only occasional things to look at in the background. Mostly references such as a Kratos from God of War mask and the Owl from Clash of the Titans. The enemies and bosses look fairly nice as well. However the cutscenes, which just use static images seem to look worse than the games pixel graphics. Almost appearing rushed in a paint program like place holder art.

Sound

By far the best element of Zeus Begins for me, the soundtrack. Filled with fantastic retro chiptunes, very reminiscent of the Megaman series. And other well loves NES/SNES classics. Each level has it’s own music and I found each one to be great. The levels aren’t that long so the loops never got too familiar to me. But if there was a soundtrack available I would consider it.

Sound effects are less impressive. But fine. Enemies make noises when beaten up. There are punch and special sounds. Weirdly there doesn’t seem to be a sound for when you take damage. This is especially notable in the bullet hell segments as sometimes you’ll die without knowing you were even getting hit.

Conclusion

A fairly short experience, I was able to finish the game and get all the achievements in under an hour. The difficulty seems unbalanced. Virtually every time I died it felt like a cheap failure of the mechanics more than a mistake on my part. And then when I came back I would generally clear the same area without issue. The special attacks seem somewhat useless as the same tactic of punching enemies, moving so they are all on one side and punching again worked on everyone.

The final Boss was easier than any other boss in the game. Hitboxes seem inconsistent. The story was generic and not very well written. The levels felt very bland and monotonous. Although the monotony of the levels is somewhat of a staple of retro Beat ‘Em Up games. Far from the worst game I’ve ever played, it still feels like more of a first project than a product that should be sold.

Rating: 5/10 – Music is great, gameplay is average, not nearly enough content for the price.

Title: Zeus Begins
Genre: Beat ‘Em Up, Action.
Developer: The Dude Games
Publisher: The Dude Games
Release Date: 16 Aug, 2019

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