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ZeroRanger (PC) artwork

ZeroRanger (PC) review


"Witness the ferocity of agent orange... and green."




ZeroRanger is an awesome vertical shoot-em-up, years in the making under its in-development title, Final Boss, made essentially with just two colours. Not black and white, but orange and green. It's an odd design choice, but it works, and helps the game stand out in a genre where that's crucial. About half of the game's musical selections are intensely anthemic, and so the visuals and score together seem to manifest a small but wondrous little work of shooter art that demands our attention.

You choose between two ships, and you start with a standard dual stream pea shooter. After beating each level, you're afforded a choice between two new guns. Whichever you choose, you'll keep forever (you can cycle between all the guns you earn); whichever you choose will behave differently depending on which ship its attached to. Some weapons are typical fare, like the back shot, some are much more interesting, like the invincible front-end drill.

ZeroRanger is hard. This is not mind-blowing, I know, as most shooters are hard, but there has been a general wimpification of the genre over time that this game refuses to participate in... fully. The game bows to new gen accessibility conventions by allowing what's essentially a level select. Yes, it's tough to fight through a level, but once it's behind you, you can start at the level after it going forward. In this way, despite often punishing enemy formations and bullet patterns, almost anyone can see the ending.

And yet... does ZeroRanger really end? Is time a straight line? Is our plane of existence circular? Strangely, developers System Erasure offer the bare bones of a thoughtful, existential story that is sketched in and mysterious in the way Silent Hill was. And they should be applauded for this: if you're going to go to the trouble of storytelling in a shooter, don't get bogged down with exposition -- it'll only piss off your hardcore base as cut scenes boil down to distraction when all you want to be doing is blasting.

ZeroRanger offers no such distractions, no quarter from blasting. System Erasure were under no illusions or delusions. They wanted to make a game that paid tribute to Qute shooters like Judgement Silversword and ESCHATOS, but they've done Qute one better, as Erasure's is both a more immediately engaging game, and one that dares you to tighten up and eschew using your lives and continues and level resume options in search of perfection. It's a rare threshold ZeroRanger has managed to flirt with: they've brought us a stylish vertical shmup that challenges and rewards in equal measure, and that makes it an easy recommendation.

4/5

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (October 18, 2018)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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Feedback

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EmP posted October 18, 2018:

Just had to work Silent Hill in there somehow, didn't you? Well, two can play that game.

There was some feedback here once. It's gone now.

Good review. A lot said in few words
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Masters posted October 18, 2018:

Thanks, I should use you again in the future to send reviews to. Words come so easy in conversation.
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honestgamer posted October 18, 2018:

I agree with EmP. It was a good review, and it makes me want to play the game. Maybe someday I even will!
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Masters posted October 18, 2018:

Thanks Jason. It came together by accident: Gary was mocking me for not writing it during a Steam messenger chat, so I started to describe it in a one-liner, as a joke, and kept writing until it was completed in a single chat box.
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WilliamArrieta posted October 25, 2018:

Nice review.
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Masters posted October 25, 2018:

Thanks! Glad you liked it.

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