Zero Zero Zero Zero. Is that code for ZZZZ? One of the latest games published to PS4 and PS Vita by Ratalaika Games is a throwback to one screen, micro levels that require platform perfection precision that you’d have found on Atari’s and Spectrums. How does this update fare now that hardcore platformers are their own genre?
Free from story, Zero Zero Zero Zero is a pure arcade experience. You have 100 single-screen levels to collect a gem and reach the exit in. The trick here is that they are placed into a roulette wheel of sorts. After the first level, they’ll appear in random order until you pass the level. It is then removed from play and you’ll keep cycling around the levels you’ve not yet passed until all 100 are done. You can view your progress on the bottom of the screen and the incentive to see all the gem icons lit up is plain to see.
The game handles predictably and that is a compliment for a precision platformer. You have access to a double jump every time you stand on a platform. You don’t need to use it immediately though and some levels require you to run off a platform and fall a little before jumping. You quickly get used to it. Aside from the usual spikes in gaps to jump over you’ll have a ton of lasers to navigate. Pattern recognition is key here. Your main issues here are that occasionally the game doesn’t notice you have touched the floor and I found sometimes the second jump wouldn’t trigger. In a game that is all about precision, that added a minor annoyance to proceedings.
Elsewhere enemies join the mix to shoot barrages of bullets at you and these, along with levels where enemies move towards you through walls as you move, are usually the most difficult. Depending on the random level order, you might get the same level quite often until you pass it and that can be an advantage as you can use your muscle memory to get further and learn the level better for next time. Other times you might not have that in your mind to help you. I did notice that the game usually keeps the same ten or so levels in rotation and swaps them out as you clear them.
You will be running against the clock for overall completion and bragging rights. Whilst you are under no time pressure to complete levels, a clock runs to see how quickly you can beat the 100 levels in total. I didn’t spot an online leaderboard which feels like a missed opportunity. What isn’t a missed opportunity is the soundtrack, which is a great mix up of retro chiptunes. I’d have liked a little more variety but what is here is great. If you master the normal mode, hardcore mode asks how far you can get with just one life. I made it six levels in and was super proud.
Ultimately, Zero Zero Zero Zero is a hard but fair platformer. You will rage a bit but the quickfire nature of the game means you never dwell on things for too long. I was also surprised at how well a small Vita screen handles the monochrome graphics too. I thought it’d be too crowded but the graphical style helps out the port nicely.