Zack 2: Celeste’s Map is a fantasy action RPG game, but it doesn’t have RPG type leveling. You play as Zack, and a couple others at different times of the game. The graphics remind me of Diablo meets Dagger Fall. I… I don’t have a lot to say about this game sadly. I really wanted to like it, as it was listed as and I’ll quote this “Zack 2 is the first PC game ever to come out of Nigeria!”, that alone excited me. I mean who wouldn’t salivate over a chance to see something new, from a new place, from a new team, like hell yeah I wanted to check it out. However, while I don’t want to talk bad about the game, it has a number of issues, So I’m going to talk about both the good and bad together, because parts of it are related to each other.

Okay first things first, graphics, you’ll notice that first because you have eyeballs. In the tutorial and in the screen shots the graphics are okay especially for a brand new game, not everyone makes incredibly beautiful games as their first game, that’s a rarity, often I’ve seen games with significantly worse graphics. So they’re pretty decent for a first game, at least from what they showed. And that’s kind of the key problem. After the tutorial which makes everything about your same size which I don’t mind, I actually kinda like that it has its charm. However going back to the point I was about to make, after the tutorial the first thing you see is your character running which is poorly animated, but again first game, so that’s not a big issue, after that though are wolves. They are exceptionally poorly modeled and don’t really move, the models aren’t held on a proper skeleton, instead it looks like a plastic toy lion that’s been painted like a wolf instead of an actual wolf. That is a great example of the graphics of this game, the quality is all over the place. I’ll say from what I saw, because I didn’t finish the game, the graphics are like seventy percent of the time okay, the other thirty it’s like someone else came in and did sub par work and no one checked it. I replayed parts of the game a few times hoping that I was just having a graphical bug, I wasn’t. This is a fix that would cost time but something they just need to go through and give things proper skeletons so they don’t look incredibly bad, then make sure they have some movement like most things instead of just gliding around unmoving.

Next let’s talk about the tutorial, it’s a cluster fuck and I TRIED playing through it four or five times before I realized what I wasn’t missing and actually passed it. And when I say that I mean that you can’t start the game proper until you’ve finished the tutorial, so it was really, REALLY annoying when I couldn’t figure out how to finish the tutorial. When you start the tutorial you see a banner show up on the top of the screen over like ninety percent of the header area and has big glorious text in it. One piece of this text tells you to move forward towards a pillar to get your health back. Now with that tiny bit of information, you, like myself, would think that the stuff in that banner is the tutorial because that would make sense. This isn’t the case though, it told you to do that one thing, which ironically isn’t a requirement to finish the tutorial. It also tells you some other things that don’t actually help you with anything as it doesn’t explain anything fully. Instead the tutorial stuff isn’t in a box, instead it’s at the very bottom of the screen, just in this invisible box, the text is easily missed because it’s small, in a terrible place, and blends into the background, which is why it took me so many times to figure it out, I thought the game was broke and kept closing the game waiting a few days and opening it in hopes that it had been updated and fixed the tutorial so I could finish it. But no, it was always fine, it was just made poorly. The tutorial also doesn’t teach you everything about the game, it doesn’t tell you how to get into chests for instance, I found out by accident as I was just pushing buttons trying to open the bloody thing, you actually have to attack and damage it and it explodes, giving you whatever was in it. A simple fix for these issues, the first fix is to put the tutorial information up on the side in the middle of the screen inside a visible box to draw the players eyes, or to put it in that glorious banner, to give the tutorial information a larger font. For the second fix, just give people more information, I wouldn’t naturally have attacked a chest, that’s not normal in games for me. Both issues have simple fixes, and I’m a bit surprised they even have those issues, they probably shouldn’t have them in the first place, cause this is simple obvious stuff.

Now I’ve harped on good and bad for a while so let’s talk about something cool that I really liked, then we’ll get back to the good and bad again. You start off with weapons, you can choose which weapon you have equipped and fight with it. Zack for instance has a scythe, a katana, and a large sword mace thing. You have all there just forever, they are simply his weapons, you can upgrade them which is nice, and all three have completely different combos and move sets which was nice to see, that’s not super common in first games, that was impressive. I really liked how the weapons felt, especially for Zack, I ended up with my favorite being the katana because it moved fast and it made me feel like I could get shit done faster even though that probably wasn’t the case. This being said, combat otherwise is very basic and rudimentary, however enemies’ melee strikes, many times felt like they had longer range than your own melee strikes did, leading to you getting hit more often and it felt kind of unavoidable. You have a side step but it’s like a millimeter of distance, it serves absolutely no purpose and even when ‘running’ your character moves really, really, really, really, really fucking slow which makes the game feel like it’s dragging and makes the the character feel so slow. Like katana attacks are fast, but then walking is like one tenth of the speed of my attacks and it just feels really underwhelming. All the enemies seem to be faster to you as there were many times I tried to run away only to get cut down as I was running which sucks, granted I never got that far either so, I don’t know. Faster base character movement, I’d say like two or three times the current, would make moving around feel better, and giving us wider side steps would make that useful to dodge in fights. I think there’s an actual dodge button but I’m not sure, if there was I didn’t really use it. I also died a lot from “I have no clue why” which isn’t useful, I had to play the start of the game a number of times because I just died out of nowhere over and over and I still don’t know what killed me all those times or how I avoided it. I don’t know how to fix this because I legitimately don’t know what the hell killed me, this happened a lot in the first few minutes of the game outside the tutorial, but it happened elsewhere too.

The last really, really big issue is the menu. The Menu isn’t put together well. Getting in and out of it is fairly easy, but your inventory screen is controlled not by the arrows, or ASDW, but instead by another button that just moves from item to item, and not necessarily down the row, sometimes in some of the menus it skips around on it, it always has that order so it’s not randomly just selecting stuff but it’s not selecting the next item in the line. On top of that highly annoying issue with the menu, everything that would be a different tab in another game where you can flip forward or backwards a tab, this doesn’t have the ability to go backwards, at least that I found anyways, which is maddening because if you pass it by accident you have to go through all the other tabs to get back to it. The same can be said for items, and the game’s desire to flip from item to item in such a way that it’s not in the order they appear in the inventory. All of this causes the menus to be just some of the most annoying parts of the game, because you get stuck in menu hell going through shit over and over until you actually land on the item you want in the menu you want, and it’s like it’s made to keep you in the menu for the longest possible time, no one and I mean NO ONE wants to be in the menu any longer than they HAVE to be. The menu isn’t the game, no one wants to play the menu. The way it’s set up just forces you to stick in for far too long, controls need to be fiddled with so we can control what we’re looking at, hell we have a mouse, why do we even have to click through each item piece instead of just putting the mouse over the item we want and clicking? That would solve most of the issues I have with the menus, let us click the tab we want, and let us click the items that we want in the tab we’re in. But that’s not the only issue with the menu as much as it pains me to say it, I was never able to get the game to go back to the main menu, it just wouldn’t work for me. I could only return to the game. Every time I closed the game it was by going into the task manager and terminating the game, forcing it to close. That… that’s not cool, that sucks. I don’t know if that’s just a me only issue or not, I hope that issue is just a me issue, but it probably isn’t.

I really want to tell people to try this game out, I really want to say I had fun with it, but I really didn’t enjoy it. And I know some of you are thinking why do you want to have enjoyed it then? The reason is simple, this is a new game released to us from a place we, as far as I know, haven’t gotten games from. Every company that’s big today has made some seriously dog shit games in the past. Every company has had to come into their own, all of them have had teething problems. I wanna see this group make new games and make better games because I am greedy. I want more games from more places, I wanna have games from every country on the planet, from every city, every village, every township because I want to experience more things, and both games and movies do that for me. I want to see this group grow, and while I didn’t enjoy this game more than I disliked it, I do hope this group keeps making games, in a couple years I wanna see what they’re doing, see how much they’ve improved.

Zack 2: Celeste’s Map was developed and published by SmartOliveGames Ltd.

Point of Sale: Steam.

Price: $15

A review copy of the game was provided by the devs.

darkmikasonfire doesn’t award Zack 2: Celeste’s Map the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval, however they do look forward to what the group makes in the future.