What is Relic Hunters Zero? It’s a free to play, side-scrolling shooter with a penchant for turtle and parrot murder. The gameplay is very simple, yet somewhat challenging as difficulty ramps up very quickly throughout the game. The replay value came from its unlockable content, which opens up new gameplay options, new characters, and the ability to skip to the later stages. For background, I sunk about 3 hours into Relic Hunters Zero on PC, using a mouse and keyboard setup.
Relic Hunters Zero lets you play as one of 2 characters to start (more become available later). The basic goal is to fight your way through levels of enemies using a variety of weapons, collecting stars, spending them on upgrades, and finding pieces of relics, allwhile fighting homicidal turtles, parrots, and what appear to be blue meatballs with teeth and wings. Currently there are a total of 4 stages, with around 4-5 levels per stage. Each stage ramps up the difficulty, changes the scenery slightly, and introduces more difficult enemies.
Unfortunately, it’s this repetition that bogs Relic Hunters Zero down. I never felt like any of the stages were that different from each other. They all had the same basic obstacles, and the new enemies introduced later on were only slight variations on old enemies, but with more health. The scenery doesn’t really change much either, aside from the color palette of the level. I did enjoy the overall art style of the game, but I wish that it would have varied more between enemies, stages, and levels.
In general, the gameplay is very fun. It reminds me of a way toned down Hotline Miami. It’s fast-paced, but not too brutal, and feels casual. There’s nothing incredibly challenging about it, but it is fun to drop in for a few rounds. The weapon variation was probably one of the game’s best features, as there was an expansive arsenal to play around with. However, when using any of the automatic weapons, I found myself constantly running out of ammo, having to resort to punching my way through levels (not an effective strategy).
I did find myself coming back to earlier stages to find relics and unlock more weapons to start with, but the game grew stale quick. It is important to keep in mind that this is a free-to-play title, and as such, some limitations are to be expected. To the game’s credit, I never felt like I was in a pay-to-win situation, and none of the game’s content is hidden behind any pay walls. In the current gaming climate, that’s a refreshing sight.
Overall, Relic Hunters Zero is fun, but repetitive. Shooting turtles with a variety of weapons can only be entertaining for so long, and the unlockables just weren’t enticing enough to make me want to find them all. However, this title is a good time waster, and the free price tag certainly makes it worth picking up. It is possible that further content releases could improve the game overall, but as it stands, I probably will not be going back.