Published on October 29th, 2018 | by Lee Davies
Review: Zarvot (Switch eShop)
Format reviewed: Switch eShop
Other formats available: exclusive
Developer: snowhydra games
Publisher: snowhydra games
Website: Official Website
A game about Cubes. Follow the charming story of two cubes as they put together the ultimate birthday present for their best friend!
An emotional story. Experience an emotional storyline focused entirely on three cube friends as they live their lives in a realistic world.
Pure gameplay, cubed. Use your rapid fire guns, precision lasers, and more! Blast your way through over nine different destructible worlds.
Intense multiplayer. Play with up to 4 friends in both ultra competitive and party modes! Crash through destructible walls with in over a dozen unique Origami Thunderdomes!
Zarvot features a quick paced flowing motion via the control of Charcoal, a greyish/blue cube, and the Left Analogue Stick. The movement is sometimes a little too fluid and can be considered twitchy, as fine-tuning direction in some of the narrowest of platforming sections sees you often speeding in the wrong direction. There’s little nuance to the control, it feels as if you can go full speed or nothing. For the most part of the game this doesn’t affect gameplay too much, where the sole aim is to move quickly around your enemies and shoot them down. However, while traversing areas in the single player Story Mode, the game doesn’t telegraph what edges you can and can’t fall off. There’s absolutely no indication that this edge hides an invisible wall to stop you from plunging, but this one doesn’t….see you later Charcoal. Fortunately, stupid fall deaths are rarely annoying due to the short distance required to travel back to upon that said death due to the frequency of auto saves.
Shooting is a press of the ZR (or Y) button, while holding that button down for a little while charges a more impressive blast, it also roots you to the spot and limits your turn speed. And, turn speed is important in Zarvot because this is not a twin-stick shooter. Your Cube can only shoot in the direction you are facing, and coupled with the overly sensitive nature of movement the shooting occurs with the direction you are moving in. When enemies fly in at an incredibly fast pace, your instinct is to back away and shoot them, this being an impossible feat in Zarvot. Instead, you are forced to circle around them, move in the opposite direction, and leave a fair degree of space between you and the enemy, before turning around, which requires time, and a turning circle, and then shoot. Due to this single stick mechanic of moving, aiming and shooting, you are always forced to be on the move and looking for space to turn and shoot. A little cumbersome and frustrating in some of the smaller spaces the game provides for playable areas.
Space is the single most important element and a frustration in tightly packed arenas. Jumping with the B button (including a double jump) allows a bit more time and an effective dodge for incoming enemy projectiles. The ZL (or X) button with a quick press encircles your Cube with spikes for half a second and acts as a very temporary shield. Hold down this button and an ever increasing circle appears around your cuboid character that can set off a radial beam, some enemies require to be hit with this to disarm their laser defences before a normal shot can do them harm. Lastly, the A (or L) button performs a quick dash manoeuvre to get in space, or out of harms way.
All fine and dandy, but you’ll also have to factor in that every attack and dash is limited in the amount of times you can use it in quick succession. As you shoot an indicator located at your rear end lights up, shoot more and it lengthens and turns red, whereupon your shot speed is significantly impaired putting you in serious peril. Short bursts of fire are necessary, as only 5 shots in rapidity will overheat your laser and require a 4-second cool-down period. The same applies to dashing, where using it three times in quick succession will overheat your engines.
For single players, the game features a Story Mode, and an Arcade Mode. For multiplayer, up to 4 players can compete in the Versus Mode locally. No online play is available and a disappointment for sure. You’ll be able to unlock extra battle arenas for the Versus and Arcade Modes by playing through and picking up tiny glowing blue cubes in the Story Mode. Of which is completely weird, but in a lovable, surreal way. Charcoal and Mustard, your yellow cubed friend, dream about getting Red the most perfect birthday present, and your job is to go collect the items deemed worthy of making it into the present. As you spend more time with Mustard, Red slips into loneliness and depression. An element I thought the developers were going to go into more depth with, but it’s only an ever cursory look at loneliness, and is resolved in a childishly simplistic way. However, the surreal aspect of inanimate objects being Story Mode bosses, such as giant cartons of milk, mochi, etc. and a reverence for all things banana are nods to all forms of surreal, tongue in cheek comedy that unfortunately doesn’t go far enough to satiate an appetite for it.
Moving around in the Story Mode, you’ll encounter walled off arenas that require dispersal of all the spawning enemies within. After clearing a wave and dispersing the barriers, you’ll be greeted with full energy each and every time. Your Cube, Charcoal, can take 3 hits before you’ll see the restart screen, and after completing a level, of which there are 12, you’ll see what a true hardcore player you are with stats. Time, Score, Lives, and Damage are all shown, and so is an overall Rank based on all of the above. This is recorded for posterity, and further attempts to get better in subsequent playthroughs.
There are incredibly simple puzzles to do like shooting switches to open doors, finding missing objects to give to NPCs that progress the story, escort missions, keys to be shot to open doors, but for the most part the gameplay revolves around killing arena based enemies. Enemies vary in their attacking and defensive styles. From the cubes that charge in with spikes, flying laser deployments, rotating towers of laser spikes, frozen defence shells, and exploding enemies that need to be dodged upon their death.
The amount of onscreen enemies can be rather large, and when they’re all shooting it can be so manic that it’s easy to lose where your situated at. However, this is slightly remedied by the generous amount of auto-aim Zarvot gives you. This is not free of its own problems, however, and when multiple enemies are on screen the auto aim will often snap to an enemy that you didn’t intend on shooting, and leave you prone to the enemy you wanted to take down, normally the closer one. A few moments of slowdown during the busiest of times were noted, this was when 20 enemies and numerous lasers were seen, but at all others the game runs incredibly smooth and looks vibrant with its choice of realistic graphics, and super blurred out edges other than everything in the central focus of the game. However, a few times the play zone and your character can be obscured by items, such as trees, in the foreground. This adds a feeling of depth to the game, but when this happens in the middle of battle, or during a platform section, these become less welcoming and more of a hindrance.
Lastly, the single player Story Mode, for the most part, is very easy. You’ll fly through most of the levels, until you come to a specific part. Normally, this will be a difficulty spike when fighting a boss, or a rough platforming section that is hard to discern a lower platform from a higher one. Difficulty spikes will see you dying quite a few times before besting the enemy through learning its attack patterns. But even at its hardest, Zarvot‘s Story Mode doesn’t throw too much difficulty at you, and is overall a little boring.
So, after playing through the 4 hour long Story Mode, what’s left to play are the Arcade Mode and the Versus Mode. The Arcade Mode has 9 collectible levels (from the Story Mode), and each has 5 waves of enemies to play through. Die at any wave and you’ll be sent back to the beginning of the wave, not the start of the level. The Arcade fights are more concentrated on providing a faster and more fluid experience than the Story Mode, but inevitably this will quickly become boring played by oneself. So, the meat of the longevity will lie in the Versus Mode, where up to 4 players can play in 5 different game types. Once again, offline only. Classic Deathmatch versus modes, like Last Cube Standing, and first to 10 kills, or in more chaotic Party Modes, such as a mouthwatering Sushi Collecting Mode, or stand your ground in the utterly gripping Sumo Mode. Lastly, the always laugh out loud JoyVot mode, as one player uses motion controls to use a levitating banana that shoots lasers and calls down deadly minions. Unfortunately, not all the modes are unlocked from the beginning, and having to play through numerous Classic Deathmatch Modes to unlock the far zanier and far better Party Modes is no small feat in itself. There is a lot of fun to be had in Versus Mode, albeit in short spurts of activity.
The soundtrack for the most part is forgettable, however there are one or two tracks that elevated my interest to levels of sublime. Acid/rock jazz would be the best way of describing it, and it’s so different to the rest of the plodding sound that it felt jarring. Not out of place, just too different from what came before and after it. I was left thinking what could have been. The story is so esoterically eclectic, that a soundtrack of full Jazz inflected rock with a trip of acid is what was needed throughout.
There were a few other issues that further soured my experience with Zarvot, and these included times where I dropped off the edge of a platform right at the same time a cutscene initiated. When going back into the playable section Charcoal was respawned halfway down to the fall to death, and this death repeated over and over again until cancelling out of the level and restarting. Also, the rumble would often inexplicably come on during a cutscene and remain on, full blast, until the cinematic ended.
Zarvot (Switch eShop)
Summary: A solid, but unremarkable experience that could have greatly benefited from a co-op mode, better controls, and online play.