Friday, December 20, 2013

Zero4 Champ II

Media Rings
Super CD-ROM

I hadn't yet played its HuCard-based predecessor when I first gave Zero4 Champ II a go, and I knew very little about the Zero4 series in general. I was quite surprised by how enjoyable the game ended up being--and by how little of the enjoyment I got out of it was owed to the seemingly salient driving element. Z4C2's straight-line street races occur only sporadically in its main play mode and conclude in matters of mere seconds.

This is a "racer" that makes its mark by exploring a number of different genres as it sends you on a point-and-click-based adventure across America. You'll enlist the help of--and compete against--lots of interesting (and often quirky) characters in your endeavor to become a champion of the curve-less courses...

...and frequently find yourself in strange situations, with humorous moments aplenty.

Between parleys with crazy folk, you'll play plenty of mini-games. The tasks presented to you are disparate: you'll place bets on auto races and blackjack hands, undertake dangerous delivery missions, prepare fast-food "delicacies," walk dogs, feed animals, and blast targets.

Most appealing of all are the first-person role-playing sequences. We're hardly talking Might & Magic here, but the battle system lends to quick combat, and there are plenty of different enemy types to take on. Even full-fledged dungeon crawlers often come up lacking in these areas.

Though it has you engage in assorted hijinks and side-events, Z4C2 ultimately does revolve around racing. The brevity and mechanical simplicity of the contests belie the fact that strategy must be employed in regards to car and part selection, course condition, and gear switching.

Truth be told, Zero4 Champ II doesn't amaze with any one of its individual components. Taking a mutt for a walk and providing lizards with grub are activities that hardly qualify as exciting on their own. But the game succeeds because it offers not merely variety in gameplay but exercises that are quite different from those that players are typically asked to take part in. The exhilaration lies not simply in participating in what's going on but in anticipating what's to come. The abundant humor and charm and the occasional bits of nice music round out what's (perhaps surprisingly) a very cool title.

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