Review: Zero Strain – It's a Catalyst

A brand new top-down shooter from Eastasiasoft is now available for Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4. The game has been available for some time via Steam on PC. What is it and what exactly does it do? We explain it to you.

In Zero Strain you pilot a ship, ahem, Catalyst. There are different types of Catalysts, but let's just call them ships for the sake of simplicity. You start out with a fairly simple ship that looks dangerously similar to Fox McCloud's Arwing. Different ships mean different strategies. Each ship has its own unique characteristics.

Zero Strain

Speed, hit points, shield and weapons come under this uniqueness. The most significant changes are the weapons. Every ship has a default fire mode. This is done automatically by holding down a button. 'Square' on the Playstation 4. Your standard fire mode uses energy, as soon as it is empty, you can not shoot with your standard firearm for a very short period of time. Your boost also uses the same energy, so keep a close eye on the gauge, especially later in the game when your position and boost are crucial to escaping a cramped situation.

Each ship also has three special attacks. You charge this by firing with your default fire mode. Special attacks can range from wide laser beams, missiles, a large area where everything takes damage and much more. Before you can get started with all these gadgets, you have to play through some levels, because you start with one ship.

Shoot'em up

Zero Strain is a top-down shoot'em up. It looks a lot like a twin stick shooter, but it's not quite. You actually only use one stick. Aiming is actually automatic depending on which way you steer. So it's a single stick shooter? whatever. You play in levels that vary between different fields with changing layouts, boss fights and defensive levels. Each level offers something new and of course it gets more and more challenging.

Playfully you unlock new ships that might be better suited to play a certain level. This is entirely dependent on your preference. Certain types of enemies require a certain strategy to take them out. For example, enemies with shields are only weak against a physical hit with a boost. Other enemies wear thick armor in the front so you can only attack them from the back.

No sooner said than done

The game starts quite simply with a level in which you fly off different fields and shoot enemies. Basically your typical shoot'em up. It quickly changes with missions in a different structure and boss fights that end up being quite tricky. Pattern recognition also plays a role where one mistake can cost you the fight. Fortunately, you'll get the hang of it after a time or two. Trial and Error is therefore no problem in this game because each level lasts no longer than 5 minutes. Not even the boss fights, these are usually even shorter.

Every level you complete with a certain ship earns you a Catalyst Shard. You need these to make new ships. Sometimes you'll need to replay a previously completed level with a different ship so that you have enough Echoes to progress through the game. At one point you have passed 6 levels, but level 7 requires 8 Echoes. You get one Echo from each level, so here you have to replay two previous levels with a different ship to collect another Echo.

For the hunters

Zero Strain is a typical game for the Trophy Hunters on Playstation 4 or the Achievement Hunters on Xbox One. Getting all trophies or Acievements will take you no more than two hours. A Platinum Trophy, or getting the full gamerscore, requires you to defeat the third boss, pick up 720 items, defeat 1000 enemies, use 120 special attacks and reach power station 12. All these assignments are of course carried out by continuing to play the game.

Verdict

We've seen a lot of games like Zero Strain, but that doesn't make it any less fun. The concept isn't original, but that doesn't matter. It works and it's just stupid fun. At least for a few hours. Depending on your goal with this game, you may wonder if it's worth the $10 price. If you only go for the Platinum Trophy, you will be ready within an hour and a half. However, the game does not require a full playthrough for the Platinum Trophy so if you want to continue playing it will of course take you a little longer.

Not too bad because the game gets quite challenging. Trying again after all will only take you a few minutes, so that the threshold remains low. An ideal short game to stab the boredom with little fuss. Just shoot.

 

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