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Zeran's Folly (PC) artwork

Zeran's Folly (PC) review

"Not for the ďCupheadís difficulty is an attack on my human rights!Ē crowd."

Zeranís Folly is tough. It has been kicking my arse, in fact. My progress has been slowed by rage quits where Iíve walked away from the game to save my blood pressure levels (as well as whatever it would cost me to repair a window once Iíve lobbed a control pad through it). Some of that isnít my fault; the game has some overly sadistic enemy placements that guarantee an extended cycle of death-respawn-repeat until you achieve that one perfect attempt through--mostly--luck. Getting through a challenging section can feel rewarding; knowing youíre only there because the gods of random decided your platform would crumble that way this time, or because an enemy swooped down half a second sooner that time, doesnít. Itís exhausting.

Some progression is reliant on a wall jumping mechanic that feels too sporadic to be reliable. The boss fights littered throughout often come down to attacking like crazy and hoping the monster in front of you falls down dead before you do (with a few very notable exceptions). It honestly makes me so angry that I could scream. Sometimes I do; I put down the pad, close the game, and go take it out on the nearest person. They knew the risks involved in existing near me. Then I sulk for a while. Then, inevitably, I come back.

I do so because while Zeranís Folly does contain some moments that are ultimately unfair, most of the time, those deaths are on my hands. I got ahead of myself during a platforming segment and leaped right into a fireball that pissed away my remaining life heart, or I miscalculated the speed of an incoming dragon pup too many times, and now itís slaughtered me. I got impatient with a mammoth morning star and tried to take it on early rather than wait for a safer cycle to progress. Or, the other extreme, I played it too safe while waiting for the perfect pathway and the platform gave way underneath me and I plummeted to my doom.

Zeranís Folly, much like some of the harsher 16-bit platformers many of us grew up with, asks you to earn progression, to learn enemy patterns and figure out the safest route through a screen full of crumbling platforms, spike pits and arrow traps. It also has a Metroid-like vibe, wherein you explore dungeons for new abilities that allow you to backtrack to previously inaccessible areas. One early mission has you delve into its depths to unlock an overcharge skill that then lets you destroy some walls formerly blocking further exploration. Some doors require keys that are hidden in hard-to-reach places, or secured behind a puzzle you need to figure out.

What really struck me, though, is that the deeper you delve into the game, the more apparent the amount of work and attention that was ploughed into its production is made. It doesnít initially appear that way. The production's case is not helped by its flash-like graphics and opening gambit of a mysterious warrior with--and stop me if youíve heard this before--a case of selective amnesia. Lone, the gameís dual-axe-wielding protagonist, awakens in the forgotten corner of a chapel somewhere, remembering nothing aside from his driving need to collect and hoard a number of ancient artefacts, all annoyingly situated in the depths of various dungeons. His clumsy exposition is discovered as he further explores the world and finds his part in it.

Itís not a terrible story, but itís not just told from Loneís perspective. As the game progresses, heís joined by another three other characters [make that four now; since I drafted this review, the developer has added in another recruitable character because people just love making me write addendums] who you can swap between in real time. This means that when Lone struggles to reach higher platforms he can tag in Abby, the saccharine sweet pre-teen mouse magician who taunts you with her ability to double jump. She canít pronounce her rís, by the way, and thatís not cute. Itís just annoying. The teamís rounded out by a spear-wielding dragon/newt thing that offers a greater offensive range, and a swift thief-in-training obsessed with making clumsy advances at Lone.

Lone, for his part, is portrayed as a capable fighter. However, he remains a naÔve innocent throughout the adventure, meaning the majority of the gameís R-rated skits are met with his complete befuddlement. And, honestly, I could take or leave this part of the game. Some genuinely funny exchanges take place, mostly based around Loneís quizzical and nonplussed responses, but they are sometimes eclipsed by the clumsiness of casual incest references, semen jokes and angry monkey rape. The constant sophomoric gag reels are destined to turn a particular demographic away from Zeranís Folly, but it would be a disservice to label the game as little more than an off-colour joke and banish it to the block lists. And, to be honest, that rampaging sexually frustrated monkey boss was kind of funny.

Still, as a game, it has more to offer. You can unlock a variety of different costumes for each of your party members, or purchase a collection of rings that offer buffs like awarding more life hearts from defeated foes or strictly cosmetic effects that change the way you view the game. Thereís a lot going on in Zeranís Folly to stop it from being just a one-note platformer. There's almost too much, if youíre trying to write about it. For probably the third time since I started drafting this review, the developer has responded to player complaints and altered the game based on customer feedback. It can still be the rock hard, punishing game that they envisioned and Iíve played, or you can select a mode that helps you out a bit more at the start, giving you extra health hearts and a handful of helpful power rings. Some of those unfair feeling enemy placements that made the first few dungeons feel like you weren't supposed to get any further have been mellowed, meaning more players will resist the rage quit before the gameís even gotten started. Those are all positive changes and serious props to developer Myroid-Type Comics for going out of their way to refine their product post-release. The constant tinkering does mean I have to end this review early, though. Before they get the chance to change it all again.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (November 06, 2017)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Masters posted November 06, 2017:

This is a great read as always, dude.

Paragraph five has this typo: "all annoying situated in the depths of various dungeons..." emphasis, mine.

Anyway, I was always interested in the game, as obscure, difficult, old school platformers are 'doing it for me' of late; your review has given me that extra nudge to add it to my cart from my wishlist.
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EmP posted November 06, 2017:

Thanks for that typo catch. I've edited it away. Now no one will ever know...

It is a cool little game. Bit off-colour at times and it tries a bit too hard to be shock-value crude, but the game itself is a real labour of love.

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