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Zeno Clash is a First-Person Shooter/Beat'Em Up hybrid game made by ACE Team using the SourceEngine and published by Valve on Steam and Microsoft on Xbox Live Arcade. The main emphasis is on melee combat. You can throw complex combos, and the game is essentially a string of battles. The few projectile weapons are slow to reload and somewhat inaccurate and the melee weapons are slow, meaning that most of the emphasis is on fistfights.

The plot concerns a young man named Ghat who lives in the world of Zenozoik. He is forced to flee his hometown of Halstedom after killing "Father-Mother" a hermaphroditic creature with many children (including Ghat, in fact). He and his Love Interest Deadra flee, fighting their way through the "Corwid of the Free," a group of insane, feral forest dwellers. Ghat recounts the story of how he spent time with them and begins to explain why he killed Mother-Father as they try to put as much distance as possible between them and his enraged siblings.

Eventually they find themselves in a land full of humanoid Living Shadow creatures and meet a mysterious being named Golem, who asks them to return to Halstedom with him after they free him from his prison. On the way back Ghat explains that Father-Mother had a mysterious secret, and recounts how he ended up killing him.

More than a little surreal, Zeno Clash is what you might get after following up a class on surrealist art with a double feature of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, followed by an eight hour Double Dragon marathon... while on mescaline.

Oh, and the voice acting's terrible.

Tropes used in Zeno Clash include:
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Ghat implements one to return to Halstedom.
  • After the End: From the looks of things, there used to be a comparatively advanced civilization around once.
  • Anime Hair: Many of the human and mostly-human characters, particularly Deadra and Rimat.
  • Avenging the Villain: Ghat's siblings are after him for killing their parent.
  • Badass Long Robe: Hunter wears one during your first encounter.
  • Big Bad: Father-Mother... maybe.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Golem at the end of the second boss fight with Hunter.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The Corwid each have their own individual set of morals (some feel that they must eat others, some feel that alternately training and attempting to a kill a random visitor to their forest makes perfect sense).
  • Bounty Hunter: Recurring boss Hunter.
  • Crapsack World: Sort of. It seems pretty horrifying to us, but not a lot of its inhabitants are weeping with despair or anything.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Many characters, most notably Deadra.
  • Deus Ex Machina: Golem.
  • Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: Surprisingly few people you meet are NOT reasonably skilled armed or unarmed combatants.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Hunter, although this may be his real name... it's hard to tell given the setting.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Thoroughly, completely, and utterly averted. That's part of the game's charm.
  • Funny Schizophrenia: The Corwid seem quite amusing...until it's noted some are cannibals. One of them chooses to keep walking in one direction until he gets stuck and dies in the desert.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Prior to the battle with Chneero, Ghat mentions that as long as Chneero keeps playing his music the Corwid won't stay down. Interestingly, during the course of the battle, if Chneero is still standing even Ghat is healed by his music.
  • Genre Busting: It's a first person melee brawler shooter. Except for that bit with the shadow people. Also there's the rail shooter section and ummm... well at least we know it's fantasy. Unless it's sci-fi...
  • Go Among Mad People: Father-Mother says this about Ghat when he spends time with the Corwid.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Your primary method of combat. Your enemies tend to use spinning kicks and other elaborate moves, but this avails them little against Ghat's fighting style. This style, taught to him by Metamoq, is to punch people in the head until they are stunned and then bash their faces in with his knee. Very simple, very brutal.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Ghat can take stunned enemies and throw them at other enemies. There's a steam achievement for doing this a lot.
  • A Handful for an Eye: employed by the Hunter on you in your last battle.
  • Handicapped Badass: Hunter is blind. Not that it stops him from being a top-notch sniper using his hearing and explosive squirrels. When you fight him in hand-to-hand combat, he's unbeatable.
  • Harder Than Hard: Hard mode is the default difficulty setting, there is no Easy mode.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight:
    • Metamoq's advanced combat training: when you bring him down to sliver of health, he makes a few unblockable attacks and pins you down. He then commits suicide.
    • The second boss fight against Hunter, once he stops holding back. Luckily Golem intervenes.
      • The first clue on this is the absence of a certain item that would make it easier to survive. The second clue is the steam achievement related to the fight.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: At least one Corwid.
  • Improvised Weapon: Besides the homemade guns, Ghat gets a lot of mileage out of hammers and bone rods that he finds lying about.
  • In Medias Res: The game begins during Ghat's escape from Halstedom after killing Father-Mother.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Double Subversion, Ghat notes that the Corwid are no threat because they simply do what they want . . . then they decide they want to attack him.
  • Insane Troll Logic: One of the Corwid wants to be invisible, so he takes out the eyes of any creature that can see him.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: These mark the borders of many levels. Unlike most Source engine-based games, you don't have the ability to jump in Zeno Clash, even an Insurmountable Knee-High Rock is certain to stop you.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Ghat does a LOT of punching in this game, and never shows the slightest discomfort, not even when a skull-grenade blows up in his hand.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Go right ahead. It doesn't do as much damage as a punch and doesn't prevent anyone from getting back up to fight if they still have more than a silver of health, but it's a good way to hurt people who can't fight back. And it can be used to defeat enemies, too.
  • Kung Shui: Not much of the environment is destructible, but the parts that are can be messed up by throwing people at them.
  • Large and In Charge: Father-Mother towers at nearly 12 feet tall, making him much larger than any other sapient lifeform seen in the game's world. He's also the closest thing the entire world seems to have to an authority figure.
  • Living Shadow: The creatures guarding Golem.
  • Low Culture, High Tech
  • The Mad Hatter: The Corwid.
  • Mad Oracle: The Obi-Wan, who kills himself in exactly the same way Ghat defeats Father-Mother for the first time.
  • Made of Iron: Apparently just about everyone. The amount of punishment that Ghat takes and deals is very much out of proportion to the game's actual death toll. the Hunter takes the first prize for being shot until he fell off a tall edifice twice and still having enough stamina to kick Ghat's ass.
  • Magnet Hands: Averted; all your weapons can be dropped quite easily.
  • Meaningful Name: Many, but most notably Ghat, Golem, and the setting of Zenozoik.
  • Melee a Trois: In one of the last levels you'll be attacked by both the Family and the Corwid at the same time. The two groups hate each other and will fight each other as well as you.
  • Mind Screw: And how! The world of Zenozoik is weird, and has no obvious roots outside of, perhaps, surrealist art.
  • Mooks: Completely averted, apart from the shadow people, every character you fight has a unique name and returns at least once.
  • Mook Chivalry: Totally averted. In fact, only the lack of obvious team tactics makes it apparent that your enemies AREN'T ganging up on you. Your ability to stun and throw people will be critical to avoid being overwhelmed.
  • Multi Boobage: On the female rodent-people.
  • Mysterious Backer: They don't get much more mysterious than Golem, but he seems to know exactly what's going on and what needs to be done.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The preferred method of fighting for... pretty much everyone.
  • Non-Lethal KO: Liberally applied to your foes. Despite the brutal and bone-crushing nature of the fights, you don't seem to deal any permanent damage, as they can be back up in minutes (plot-wise) to fight you again. And again.
  • Not Quite Dead: Father-Mother.
  • Pardon My Klingon / Unusual Euphemism: Eat kak, you tef.
  • Perception Filter / Exact Words: There's that guy who wants to be invisible. Invisibility involves people being not able to see you. Being able to see someone involves having eyes. So... see Insane Troll Logic above.
  • Petting Zoo People: No distinct races are named and many creatures' looks can only be described as "weird", but it's plain that some of them are anthropomorphic animals. Examples include rodent-people, elephant-people, (several kinds of) bird-people, pig-people and more. Word of God claims they are based on prehistoric mammals and birds.
  • Punched Across the Room: Hitting a stunned enemy does this. It can happen to you too, so watch out.
  • Punk Punk: Well, it's some sort of punk...
  • Rail Shooter: A short section has you standing on a boat picking off rock-throwing tribals with a rifle, while Golem and Deadra have a plot-expanding chat.
    • Can also be That One Level before it was patched, as it was insanely easy to accidentally heave your rifle into the water and spend the entire mission trying to dodge tribals.
  • Schizo-Tech: Crossbows that fire skulls, seashell pistols, gunpowder rifles made from spines and metal pipes, automated doors which need passwords, bombs made of skulls and... Rubix cubes. All but the cube have a decidedly stone-age aesthetic, being made mostly from wood and bones. Yes, even the rifles.
  • The Stoic: Golem.
  • Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: Absolutely mandatory if you want to live. Fighting honorably with your fists is all very well, but you literally cannot beat your tougher opponents unless you make use of guns, grenades, blunt instruments, and/or the terrain.
    • There is a steam achievement for using the bare minimum amount of weaponry to beat the game. There's a handful of enemies that can only be hit (initially, at least) with a weapon.
  • The Un-Reveal: Subverted, Ghat decides not to reveal Father-Mother's secret, then Golem steps in to Shoot the Dog and spill the beans.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Averted. Any weapon can be knocked out of an opponent's hand (or yours). Any weapon that's lying around can be picked up by anyone (including your enemies).
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Here's how a typical fight goes: you find a guy, you block a punch or two, and then you smack him around until he's too dazed to fight back. Then you grab him and hold him in place while you introduce his nose to your kneecap several times. Then you throw him to the ground, and kick him while he's down until he can't get up anymore. Sounds pleasant, doesn't it?