Zurkez. Say it to yourself. Roll that name, redolent of mystery and adventure, around your mouth. Chew and savour the syllables.
You, the protagonist of Perised – The Zurkez Project, a ‘melee stealth action game’ from Modern Day Industries, are a genetically altered clone with knives for hands. Not cool-looking knives like Wolverine, or gothic Tim Burton knives. No, these knives are the kind my family took on picnics and used to cut cheese. Wash the blood off and they’d look at home in your cutlery drawer. Your introduction to this character is just about the only thing worth getting hold of this game to see, if only for the vast question mark it will create above your head. That cartoon punctuation will hang above you like the eroteme of Damocles, forcing you at every second to wonder what on earth was meant by the series of childish drawings and Australian voiceovers that lead you in. Was it serious? Is the whole game a clever bit of satire? How exactly did I ‘use the landscape as a weapon’ during my escape from the generic military experimental complex of my birth? What am I dealing with here?
It does look a bit like the original Thief, to be fair, in terms of graphics. Bear in mind that game is ten years old now. Only where it had a thrilling sense of light, sound and shadow that immersed you in its grimy world, Zurkez has a set of godawful cloned trees, shadowless and bland landscapes that immerse you like the Dead Sea immerses swimmers (by which I mean you float on the surface feeling dehydrated, rather than any comparison with a unique and beautiful tourist location) and sound that I could have produced in my bathroom given ten minutes and a strong curry.
Gameplay in Perished is basic, unsatisfying and tedious. The enigmatic ‘guards’ (if that is their real name) spot and kill you with no warning, which means they are at least good at their job. No ‘was that a rat?’ warnings with this crew, just dead sneaks. Without much idea of how hidden you are, sneaking feels frustrating and broken. Your character manouevers almost as smoothly as a greased and limbless hippo. You can run up the sides of trees, but you can’t stay in them, you just slide out again. It all feels like a mistake.
The level design is hilarious. Level one is a forest by day, in which the bad guys have oddly built campfires and landed a helicopter near what looks like an inexplicably crashed UFO. To complete the level, simply make your way to the other side. You can do this by running in a relatively straight line, jinking a bit to avoid being shot. The seamless transition to level two is via voiceover, which explains ‘after making my way through the forest I found myself in an underground military complex’. Just like that. The complex is one long, featureless corridor packed with guards. No hope for survival? Far from it, they’re all luckily facing the wrong way. Kill one of a pair and the second one generally doesn’t notice. But sometimes, for no discernable reason, he does and you’ll be shot to bits with the weird blue laser shotguns they carry. There’s no rhyme or reason to any of this as far as I can see. I’d be willing to say I was just bad at the game. That cuts both ways, though. I think this game is bad at me.
It’s been made using a ‘make yourself a game’ software kit, and it shows. I think if the developer had used Meccano to build this, it might have been smoother and more realistic. It’s almost a shame that time and effort have clearly gone into making it. I wondered if this is someone’s very early attempt to get into game developing, some pre-teen having a crack at it in a bedroom somewhere. There’s something faintly Axe Cop about the whole thing. If that’s true, good on you, Junior Game Dev, I’m actually quite impressed. Don’t give up, practice will doubtless improve your work (as will
being patronised by opinionated jerks like me). If it’s not, and this was made by anyone over the age of ten, they need to get out and get a different job with all imaginable speed.
Overall advice for Perished – The Zurkez Project? Avoid, unless you have an overwhelming urge to spend money staring at rotting garbage. I couldn’t tolerate more than two levels out of the four available. I have a high tolerance for drivel, but I have to draw the line somewhere.