While I’ve been gaming since Jesus played center forward for Nazareth, my first real, prolonged foray into gaming was during the 16 bit era, principally with the Sega Mega Drive (known as the Genesis in the United States). I have clear memories of sitting down with each new game, opening the case and studiously perusing the enclosed instructions, looking for that edge or hint to accelerate my journey in finishing the game. Sadly, with the advent of digital games, and cost cutting to increase profit margins, those once treasured instruction manuals are now a thing of the past. While some systems have rendered those instruction manuals in digital form, this is not the case with software for the Switch, and such is the case for this game as well.
The irony of that lead in is that Blaster Master Zero is a 16 bit game that really needed an instruction manual. Not because the game is hard, it isn’t. Not because the controls are difficult to work out, they aren’t. But because not having that manual in front of me caused me to waste a good 45 minutes backtracking trying to find something because I didn’t know the game had, tucked away in a pause menu, a map of each level.
With that gripe fully disclosed, let me start this review as objectively as humanly possible.
Blaster Master Zero is an almost screen for screen, level for level remake of the NES title of the same name, minus the “zero,” of course. Thankfully, Zero is without the limited lives and requirement for pixel perfect jumping of the original, but unthankfully almost nerfed to the point of rendering the entire experience unchallenging.
For those of you who follow my reviews, whether religiously or otherwise (and if religiously feel free to make a tax deductible donation to my 401(c)(3) entity through gofundme.com/opiateofthemasses/ – disclaimer NOT tax deductible and NOT real) – you’ll know I am not apt to give away plot or plot devices, but in this case I will make an exception to the rule as the plot adds nothing to the gaming experience other than a raised eyebrow, or a gentle shake of the head. You are Jason, a nondescript young dude who has a pet frog. That same pet frog has somehow come into contact with a radioactive substance and mutated. It subsequently escapes and disappears down a mysterious hole in the ground to an heretofore undiscovered vast subterranean world filled with mutants of varying descriptions who seem hell bent on killing you on first sight. Astoundingly, and unperturbed by potential dangers and a lack of any weapons or weapon training, Simon decides to follow after his dear pet. As if by miracle, Simon finds a fully functional, yet abandoned tank, and magically – despite not even being old enough for a drivers license – is able to fully operate this tech marvel including its jumping function throughout several levels of platforming goodness. Ever the brave soul, Simon even alights from his tank to enter caves, sans weapon training, to do hand to hand battle with mutant foes, equipped with his newfound battle armor and rifle, thus moving the game from side-scrolling platformer to top down shooter. Yes, all for a pet frog.
Blaster Master Zero, as heretofore mentioned is a hybrid platform/top down shooter in a Megaman/Metroidvania style, requiring power-ups and backtracking to unlock succeeding levels. The controls for the most part are responsive if somewhat twitchy, with jumping mechanics eerily reminiscent of ice levels of other mainstream platformers.
The top down levels have their own, not insurmountable problems. The majority of enemies have not acquired the notion that you can attack on a diagonal, rendering them extremely vulnerable to those forms of attack, making them the video game equivalent of a rook. Putting to one side that kill tactic, the game is made even more unchallenging the more you acquire upgrades, including weapons with unlimited range and the ability to shoot through walls and off screen. The game simply isn’t hard enough to require this level of firepower, and if you are looking for a game that will actually present a challenge, rather than just allow you to drift unhindered from boss to boss, my recommendation is to stick to the lower powered weapons and use your gaming skills instead of running with the OP weapons you will unlock.
While this game is “safe” for your wife, it’s also likely to bore her to sleep.
Despite being developed as a release day title for the Switch, Zero is unashamedly a 16-bit graphical creation, created on a razor thin budget. Fortunately, the lack of graphical fidelity compliments the old-skool feel of the game, and modern graphics would be no more than putting lipstick on a prize pig.
The game is enjoyable, with an around 10 hour initial run through time. Once completed, you are unlikely to want to replay it, and there isn’t anything more that opens upon completion, to even warrant that. While there is DLC available, there is nothing in this game that inspires that kind of further investment.
A demo version of the game is downloadable from the eShop so you can get a feel for the game and decide whether you like it.
The old-skool feel with new-skool ease of play has its superficial appeal, and it’s a great title to pick up at a discount price while waiting for that new first party release to become available.
I give it a firm 6.5. A slightly better than generic beer type of video game, but not at craft beer level by any stretch of the imagination.
Full-time lawyer and dad, part-time gamer when the former allow.