We thought we were aware of the kids shows that are popular at the moment, thanks to our two screen-savvy little urchins, but Zorro The Chronicles has bypassed us and them completely. None of us have heard of it. But there must be enough viewers of the show, as Nacon and BKOM Studios are here to pimp their licensed game on the series. We’ll just have to squint and imagine Antonio Banderas.
What you’re getting in Zorro The Chronicles is a kind of kiddie-friendly Thief. Expansive levels are dotted with enemies of various types, and objectives are squirreled away in rooms that they are guarding, or on keychains around their waists. It’s up to you, then, to find the best way to approach these objectives. If you’re the patient type, and like the idea of clearing a courtyard without any guards foregoing their siesta, then you can stealth your way to success. If you don’t have time for any of those shenanigans, then you can laugh in the face of security alarms and take on all-comers with nothing but your trusty foil.
We will admit that we don’t remember Zorro being the ‘keep to the shadows’ type, but we appreciate the agency. Each situation becomes a puzzle to be deciphered, as you tag enemies with your spyglass and work out an optimal path through them all, whether by blade or by subterfuge.
Both sides of the coin have some tricks at their disposal. If you are stealthy, you can grapple to the top of buildings or hang on lanterns, waiting for the most unobservant of guards to walk beneath you and pounce. Rocks can be thrown to distract or draw enemies nearer, and a handy X prompt appears on unsuspecting opponents when their backs are facing you. One hit and they’re down, regardless of how big they are.
If you’re more of the bull in a china shop, then you have an equal number of options. The enemies gather round, taking tickets like they were in Argos, ready to attack you one-by-one. A B prompt appears as they do, and you can dodge, flip and counter them. Stand near environmental triggers like the rear-ends of horses, or handily piled mounds of hay, and you can consign them to an embarrassing end, all with a fancy cutscene. Perform enough of these family-friendly fatalities, and you will generate energy, which can be spent on a ‘kill anything you want card’, which is handy when you’re facing big dudes with shields who just won’t go down. It’s basically Batman: Arkham Asylum, but with a sunnier atmosphere.
Having played both sides of that coin, we can safely say that one is far more fun than the other. Stealth is, unfortunately, not particularly rewarding – at least, not as an exclusive method of playing. There aren’t many carrots for playing this way: each arena has an objective, and the majority are oriented towards a fighter rather than an assassin. The same goes for the unlocks, which don’t let you specialise: you are forced down a mostly linear path, and – again – they’re biased towards melee. But the big turn-off is that stealth takes so much longer, with too many enemies to completely clear the decks. Not that you will be rewarded for it. And being discovered only reminds you how inconsequential stealth is: fighting is just so much easier and quicker, and it will dig you out of any hole.
There are eighteen levels here, which is a handsome number, particularly when you consider how large and open several of them are. But it only takes four or five of them to get Zorro The Chronicles’ number. It becomes abundantly clear that very little distinguishes one level from another.
One part of Zorro The Chronicles’ repetition problem is its cost-cutting, particularly in the area of art. We very, very rarely leave the confines of Spanish Californian townships, with their terracotta houses and white chapels. A galleon and a castle are the only exceptions that we can recall. There’s no change of scene, and it’s deadly for enjoyment. You won’t feel a sense of progression, and you’ll soon learn the buildings you can or cannot grapple off by heart.
The same goes for the enemies. After the opening level lays out its wares and showcases a range of enemies, you will only see another five types introduced over the remaining seventeen levels (a swarthy dynamite-thrower being about the only interesting addition). It’s not enough, and the simple rhythms of Zorro’s combat become too rote, too learned. Without new enemies to mix up your approach, you get into something of a routine.
It puts a lot of onus on the story to keep things interesting, and it doesn’t have a hope. There’s no real over-arcing story, and you’re instead stuck on a never-ending ‘embarrassment of the week’, as you look to steal, deface or capture something that your enemy – Capitan Monasterio – values. He turns up at the end with the same, shocked look on his face, probably slapping his knee and cursing those pesky kids.
Zorro The Chronicles is a good song that gets overplayed. When we first started, the flow of combat – even if it was on the simple, unbelievable side – was good, and we enjoyed the ridiculous pantomime of kicking enemies into firepits so that they could run around with their rear on fire. We were starting each region with the intention of staying out of sight, before inevitably tossing wariness to the wind and fighting everyone.
But then it happened again and again and again. Zorro the Chronicles rides in on the same one-trick pony, hoping to dazzle and surprise with the same-old, same-old. It dearly needed much more to keep things interesting to level six, let alone level eighteen.
We imagine that Zorro The Chronicles fans will find a bit of wish-fulfilment here. There’s every opportunity to slash a Z on the torso of your enemies, as you dance from melee to melee with grace. But you will need some blinkers to ignore the rampant repetition of its levels, which can’t come close to keeping things interesting or varied. Somehow, the dashing, charismatic Zorro has been made to feel, dare we say it, boring.
You can buy Zorro The Chronicles from the Xbox Store
- Large, open arenas to approach the way you want
- Flowing, Batman-style combat
- Plenty of combat and stealth options at your disposal
- You better love terracotta buildings
- Stealth isn’t really a viable option
- Far too little changes to keep you on your toes
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Nacon
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, Switch, PS4, PS5
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 16 June 2022
- Launch price from - £33.49