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 3D beat-em-up 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 IMO 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 (a short pause in which you are left vulnerable to attack) which allows you to extend your attack combo with power attacks which can be used by pressing Y after a delay to extend your combo. 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 many 3D beat-em-ups still fail to do this as giving players more freedom to modify the controls could allow for better reflexes as players may be more comfortable with a different control layout, thus allowing them to play more competently. Proxy Blade Zero doesn’t pull its punches, so learning the controls is vital for you to make progress.
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.
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 beat-em-up, kinda like a puzzle 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 beat-em-up, 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, rewarding players who can develop such skills.
If you’re the sort of player who loves experimentation, you may have picked the wrong game. Proxy Blade Zero is a methodical game in the sense that each enemy you encounter is like a puzzle for you to solve and once you’ve solved it, you move on to a new puzzle. I usually don’t enjoy games like this as they restrict my creative freedom but I think the methodical design is ultimately what makes the game fun to play as the process of learning how to defeat each enemy adds an extra layer of depth to the combat and gives the game its own identity which is something I can appreciate.
One aspect of the game I did enjoy was the overdrive feature. The overdrive gauge enhances Fenrir’s damage and attack speed as it is accumulated. It’s a bit like the style meter in Devil May Cry in the sense that it increases with every successful action but it will quickly start to decrease if the player doesn’t combo effectively. As such, using only the basic 3 hit combo isn’t enough to build up the gauge. I think this feature is great because it rewards using both power and energy attacks against your enemies to build combos by making you faster and stronger, thus encouraging players to play more aggressively. It may not be as flashy as Devil May Cry’s style gauge 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. The use of color and the crisp textures combined with a colorful nebula skybox is a treat for the eyes. It feels like you’re traversing through a virtual world which makes for an interesting sci-fi feel. While it may not be the most original looking game out there, I think the use of color keeps the visuals fresh so that each area feels different. 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. The crisp textures and vivid colours serve to accompany the game’s music well enough to allow players to absorb themselves in the combat without feeling detached from the game’s aesthetic design. While it may not be the most exciting world to explore, it offers just enough to distinguish the game’s style.
Sadly this is only a 2 hour long game with only 6 levels but it is clearly built with a short length in mind considering how the game works. Proxy Blade Zero relies on its puzzling enemy design and I feel that if the game was any longer, it would have stagnated if it continued to throw the same enemies at you time and time again. That being said, 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 that saving the higher difficulties for a second playthrough is the best way to get the most out of this game.
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 its 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.
“Proxy Blade Zero is a thinking mans hack n slash, kinda like a puzzle which punishes those who don’t think fast”
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