Review – Zineth

This article originally appeared in Volume XIX, Issue II of The University Observer’s Otwo supplement and online at universityobserver.ie

A surreal and hyper rush

Zineth is the first game to be developed by a group of Rensselear Polytechnic students called Arcane Kids. The main character is essentially a futuristic paperboy, initially tasked with the collection of magazine pages and then immediately asked to journey off to the moon “for some reason”. Zineth maintains this playful, tongue-in-cheek tone throughout and it does so to great effect.

The most immediately striking aspect of Zineth is its appearance, which can be best described as the wonderful love child of surrealist Giorgio de Chirico’s paintings and the cel-shading approach pioneered by Jet Set Radio. Indeed, the game also owes a good deal of its fundamental design to the latter, taking Jet Set‘s core rapid rollerblading mechanic and upping the ante to a ludicrous level.

The world is sparse by the nature of its aesthetic, but it isn’t devoid of personality. The original score is appropriately psychedelic and at any time you can pull up a phone menu and access texts and a Tamagotchi-style battle mini-game that is played in parallel with the main game. Most interestingly though, the phone allows for the use of what initially seems like some sort of faux-Twitter. Surprisingly, however, it can actually link to your real world account. To say it was bizarre seeing Ricky Gervais’ tweets pop up while plummeting off a thousand foot high structure made of abstract shapes at 500km/h would be something of an understatement. The Twitter integration has no gameplay benefit but it’s an undeniably neat feature and one that’s something of a microcosm for the game as a whole. Zinethis well aware of its peculiarity and it revels in it.

Traversing the environment is exhilarating, thanks to a simple and easy to grasp control scheme, one that allows for fluid navigation of the many obstacles in the world. Potentially frustrating failed attempts are made easier to swallow thanks to a rewind feature that encourages exploration, without draining the game of challenge.

There isn’t much variety unfortunately: missions either comprise of the collection of items or the running of time trials. Had the developers been able to apply the same level of creative originality to player objectives as demonstrated in almost every other facet of the game, the results would no doubt have been very intriguing. Considering this is only a student project these shortcomings are easy to forgive.

Zineth is a pleasant and inspiring game, a reassuring affirmation that unshackled imagination is very much still alive in game development; hopefully this marks the beginning of a bright future for the talented Arcane Kids.

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