REVIEW: Proxy Blade Zero

It’s been almost two years since I first saw Proxy Blade Zero ($2.99). That was for the 2012 Dream.Build.Play competition, and it was minus the supplemental ‘Zero’ back then. On the surface level at least, this version appears to be nearly identical to that build; it was always pretty to look at. Despite the sparse environments and esoteric combat the trailer showed, I had it pegged as a game to watch.

The final release proves a lot of my initial assumptions true, and that’s both good and bad news. Proxy Blade Zero places you in the role of a sort of Space Samurai, tasked with taking down interstellar criminal boss types. You know, the kind with their own space stations and robotic armies and stuff. Levels consist of multiple battles, with you then finding a key or throwing a switch (or switches) to unlock a door and advance. Minus some brief commentary on your mission, story and exploration take a backseat.

Combat is the absolute core of the game, the Alpha and Omega. Everything else is merely window dressing, as both you and your enemies are poised for equal battle within a series of checks and balances. In simpler terms, you must play defense as much as you play offense. Much like the fighting in games like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, PBZ‘s parry and dodge system is more than just a friendly suggestion; it’s life and death. And while the combat here is not as stylish or varied as it is in those other games, you can look like a badass when you pull off an impressive string of moves and combos.

Your attacks come in a few different flavors, standard and charged, using your boost not just as a means of traversal and escape, but as a way to land heavier hits and combat threats more efficiently. Doing so builds your power gauge, which in turn increases the speed and damage of your attacks. This proves to be an important counter in the larger arena fights, as some enemies come shielded and employ deadlier moves.

Proxy Blade Zero - Screen

This reliance on balanced combat is fun, and makes sense…. but only when you’re matched up against equal odds. In group battles of say, four or more, the balance shifts too heavily to the enemy’s side. Taking on multiple foes in a system that is primarily designed for one-on-one fights naturally leads to some unfair deaths. Dodging, parrying, and attacking is harder to do when you are simultaneously avoiding thrown mines and / or laser shots from distant targets.

Melee attacks from heavier enemies can be hard to gauge, as well, throwing off your timing. Misjudge an opening, or block too late, and you can doom an entire fight. To be more fair, or perhaps being aware of this occasional imbalance, the game features very-forgiving checkpoints, meaning you won’t always have to replay multiple fights to reach your previous point. Even with that considered, be prepared to die often.

Proxy Blade Zero is exactly what I thought it was two years ago; a great-looking game with an awesome aesthetic (and soundtrack), coupled together with a layered (but flawed) combat system that pleases as much as it frustrates. Though it’s open to anyone, it’s probably best enjoyed by hardcore players that find games like Ninja Gaiden to be too easy. For the rest of us, it may be asking too much.

14 thoughts on “REVIEW: Proxy Blade Zero”

  1. I kinda of like it.
    Improvements could include switching the X and Y buttons, that would feel more natrual.
    Also, persicion parries on laser strikes would be like a lightsaber block. That would balance ranged enemies.

    Also have dash on LT
    Overdrive on RT, allowing for more percision in using it.
    Maybe map a laser bolt on B in order to balance against ranged enemies.

    I feel that these changes would improve the game and make a smother experiance.

    1. Control layouts I can personally get used to over time, although I can see yourself and others wanting to switch the button positions of certain moves.

      I like the idea of being able to block incoming laser attacks, too. That would help, although I’m still of the belief that the game should either reduce the fights to more of a one-on-one (or at most, one-on-two) setting, or add ‘area’ attacks and / or a quicker combat system to accommodate the additional foes.

      I like the setup otherwise, and the presentation. Wish it had more story, maybe, but that’s just me. Hopefully the lower price means more people are taking a look at it regardless. I’m just one opinion.

  2. Mmmmm…. welll…… hmmmmm still not sure. This review not quite convince me on the 5 dollars. This might be unfair, but… when it comes to 3D indie games, I cant help myself but to compare it to the AAA games, so, unless it got something unique, I not see a reason to spend the money. I know Hurley… I know… is not a fair match, but that is how I roll. I guess I will pass this one and pick Survivalist instead. Not saying this is a bad game, but, I can find better 3D AAA games on a bargain in the stores (I think NInja Gaiden 2 is at the same price as this one). This is just a personal opinion, not saying the game does not deserve the price tag, in 3D games I’m just picky (I hated Demon House so you get the idea). Also I have a feeling you did not get to the end of the game, that last sentence hint me that, any idea how long is the game?

    Also… funny thing how the DLC of the XBLIG 3D games never arrives, is kinda like a curse cough Blood and Bacon… Astralis cough

    1. Can’t blame you for hesitating on the game with so many other options available. Proxy Blade Zero isn’t a bad game at all, just more for a hardcore crowd than a pick-up-and-play one. If you actually get a Ninja Gaiden or DMC for $5, then yeah, definitely your safer bet.

      Did not finish, though if I go by the ‘chapter select’, I was more than halfway through. That put me at about an hour, so maybe two hours to finish it?

      As for DLC, yeah, that’s a combination of wanting to move onto other projects, or time, perhaps. I can never know the amount of work that goes into making a game, so supporting it afterward, if sales don’t add up to expectations, or other work / real life gets in the way, then yeah, some plans don’t pan out. The good part about it is, at least the games themselves are really good already, so DLC would just be gravy on top.

    2. Well, after playing it for a couple of hours I have to say that it’s tough… really tough! Not that I’ve got a Master’s degree in fighting games but I always thought that I’m at least a decent player when it comes to games like these.

      An hour to get halfway through the chapter? I’m stuck at 30 % right now. Either you are good or I just plain suck (or a combination of both).

    3. All luck, trust me. 🙂 I consider myself entirely middle-of-the-pack in all genres, so if I exceed at any one type, it’s usually luck. Or I just spend enough time in one spot that I eventually overcome it out of repetition.

    4. After (a lot) more dying and cursing I’m almost through (90%) which is a shame, because the longer I play, the more I like it.

      Luck? Some Jedi dude one said “In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck” (just to quote Obi-Wan for no apparent reason).

      Actually this is just some meaningless spam post so I can try out my new cool avatar (sorry, gravatar). And why was my name already taken at wordpress?

      Anyhow, from now on I shall be known as sooshman… (slow clap)…

    5. And what a slick-looking avatar it is! No wonder the name is already taken. Had I known my avatar would look like that, I would’ve signed up years ago! 🙂

      At least there’s some consolation in the fact that the game doesn’t lose all of its fun by the later stages. How many will be able to maintain their patience to that point, though, is open to debate. Jedi powers would likely help. Difficulty Balancing is a hard sport, just another facet to development that I wouldn’t want to be saddled with.

  3. If you’ve always fancied yourself a space samurai, and want to prove your worth against impossible odds, simply reply to this comment to win yourself a copy of the game. Big thanks to developer DragonSix for supplying the code!

    1. @celsowm: By four minutes! These codes do not last long. Far cry from when I first started the site, and I hid them within the reviews. Back then, I couldn’t give the codes away. 🙂

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