Don’t strain too hard.
Zero Strain is an arcade shooter that aims to test your reflexes as it blasts onto consoles after a year-long test flight over on Steam. Developed by Kaio Meris and now published by Eastasiasoft, a team that are no strangers when it comes to the shooter genre. With a vast catalogue in their repertoire, our very own Lord Shmup has taken on the delights of several offerings this year alone – including Task Force Kampas and Project Starship which were met with varying degrees of success. One thing for sure is that with the steady flow of releases from Eastasiasoft, there is always something new to potentially add to the collection.
Wrapped in an Anime-like brochure the mission is relatively generic, embark across a series of arena challenges that offer fast-paced, furious over the top action commonly featured in MOBA games. The big difference here is that Zero Strain is a single-player experience. Having an understanding of when to defend is key to survival and will have you planning your next move. A native is provided between stages which feels a little forced and doesn’t necessarily add to the experience. We all just want to blow stuff up. As mentioned above, this story is told via amine styled characters which are in stark contrast to the futuristic dark and neon glow of the in-game visual. It’s a strange mix that shouldn’t really work. When moving Zero Strain isn’t too dissimilar to Geometry Wars in presentation.
The game contains the usual splattering of modes and customisation options, different ships with unique abilities will give you the edge in the arenas. Although varied in design ships look ripped out of Flight of the Navigator with their silver polish. Each of the ships, known as constructs, has a standard-issue turret attack along with several specials. Using the shoulder button as a modifier for the additional weapons or to activate the dodge mechanic needs to be mastered early doors.
Enemies warp into the field of play at will and begin their tireless mission to destroy you. Strategic play will keep you alive but there is so much going on that survival becomes a roll of the dice. Adding to the woes faced, your ship is penalised for straying outside of the allotted play area resulting in a loss of shield cover and eventually life. Oh yes, and also add into the equation that your weapon will require a period of cool down if you are trigger happy. Master these elements and there is fun to be had at least but the difficulty level is high.
BOSS BATTLES! play a big part of any shooter worth it’s salt and Zero Strain is no exception. Gameplay is littered with larger than life face-offs that will further test your abilities and hand-eye coordination. Enemies have a life bar that will keep you on track to victory but everything soon becomes overwhelming. The pumping soundtrack adds to the intensity as sparks fly and ships die. Beating a stage gives you a rank to improve upon in the next run and a crafting system, in the Essence Reactor, which feels bolted on.
Zero Strain falls apart in the control system.
What on the outside seems to be a perfect twin-stick shooter is crippled by the implementation of an auto-lock-on system and no option to switch to dual analogues. While the A.I. locking is effective it actually hampers any real enjoyment, for this reviewer at least. Instead of zooming around and switching targets at a whim, I was constantly repositioning my craft leaving my base, which has an energy bar, open to all kinds of skullduggery. The more you play, the more it becomes natural but could have been so much better with that simple option to customise controls.
Zero Strain is an apt name, the gameplay is strained and held back by the control system implemented. While there is fun to be had, overall the gameplay is messy and the screen is overcrowded. Going back and updating with a patch could alleviate some of the minor issues but as it stands, Zero Stain is difficult to recommend with the wealth of choice on the eShop.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo
Release Date: 13/08/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Shooter, Strategy
Developer: Kaio Meris
Download link: eShop