Zorro’s latest adventure sees the legendary hero in an action-packed, yet family-friendly experience.
Zorro, named after the Spanish word for fox, is a masked vigilante popularized in American fiction. Known as a cunning anti-hero who opposes unjust authorities by stealing from those in power and protecting the weak and helpless, Zorro has appeared many times as media evolved from books to radio dramas, and starred in a popular Disney TV series as well as countless movies. Maintaining a hidden identity throughout his adventures there are trademarks to recognize Zorro’s disruptive mischief as the mark of the letter Z is the only clue left behind.
Zorro: The Chronicles is a new Zorro adventure by BROM studios that takes place in the puebla of Los Angeles, where siblings Diego or Inez don the infamous black mask to fight against corruption. The military tyrant Monastario has been taxing the locals into poverty and imprisoning anyone who disagrees with him. The legend of the vigilante in black is the last hope of the people to bring justice to those in need.
In this adventure players are met with the challenge of infiltrating various strongholds to foil criminal plans. Before each stage there is a choice between which of the De La Vega Siblings to control and if stealth or direct combat will be used to enter. Choosing Diego adds one lightning bolt of energy to the gauge to execute special moves, while choosing Ines adds a heart of stamina to her gauge to survive enemy attacks. Both characters are armed with a fencing rapier and classic bullwhip to dispatch enemy soldiers.
What stands out as uniquely Zorro is the way enemies aren’t bloodied in combat, but instead humiliated with slapstick disposal techniques. Zorro can perform basic attack combos that end with hilarious executions that knock out opponents. With the correct timing, Zorro can parry attacks with counters that send enemies tumbling into environmental objects or leap over opponents to catch them off guard from behind. By using energy stored in the lighting bolt gauge by combining moves together, Zorro is also able to perform special moves that can eventually be upgraded to take out up to five enemies at once. By using the whip, Zorro can also ascend buildings to move around their upper levels and ledges without being detected.
While stages may offer a stealth entrance, hiding isn’t always necessary. There are bonus areas divided throughout each level where Zorro can achieve side objectives by maneuvering combatants in specific ways, like throwing them into cactus, off ledges, or into crates and barrels. Exploring levels for secrets and achieving side objectives will grant Zorro collectable Z points that can be used to upgrade abilities and extend the stamina or energy meters. There are also five collectable posters hidden within each stage that Zorro can vandalize to favor his image among the people.
Most levels require Zorro to scout an area for information or items like a key to access an area with treasure or prisoners in need of an escape. Levels are organized into eighteen separate stages and while the game has a satisfying and straightforward play loop, it can feel repetitive without climactic boss fights. Because stealth is not a main focus and being sneaky isn’t rewarded, Zorro: The Chronicles may have carried a more grand sense of exploration if it was developed around an open world and players were able to travel to map locations on the back of Zorro’s infamous horse, Tornado.
Zorro: The Chronicles has art and graphics that are in a smooth 3D cartoon style, similar to a Dreamworks animated movie. Character designs don’t offer a lot of costume variety, but are visibly emotive, with exaggerated expressions that enhance the slapstick nature of the action. The stage environments are fun to explore but their overall appearance feels repetitive after running through two or three stages. Without more than the expected combat to oppose Zorro, players may want to step up to the harder difficulty option. In a comedic fashion, The story is told without words or a script as characters use laughter and other non-verbal expressions. While the wordless storytelling keeps cutscenes short and punchy, it also silences some of the more serious and nuanced tones Zorro may have been known for in previous incarnations, in exchange for a more juvenile presentation. The soundtrack is dynamic as it moves in and out with combat and primarily features exotic acoustic guitar melodies to set the mood in both menus and gameplay.
Combat can be a lot of fun and works well when taking on enemies in groups. The special moves and executions are certainly funny, but combat as a whole doesn’t feel as smooth as the game’s style and appearance. The rhythm of attacks feels choppy as combos stagger awkwardly and look like they could use a few more transitional frames added to clear up their individual motions. This doesn’t pair well with some of the rough 3rd person camera work, which has a hard time keeping some of the action in frame. The camera generally is not able to zoom out enough when needed, it shakes slightly with each attack, and positions itself in other ineffective ways, especially around objects or inside buildings. Because of all the environmental interactions, there’s also some awkward looking collisions as knocked out soldiers begin to pile up around Zorro.
Zorro: the Chronicles does manage to bring new flavor to the legacy of the franchise. There haven’t been many attempts at a Zorro game, especially one with a humorous approach to art style and combat. Visuals may not be overly detailed and physics feel similar to an actual cartoon at times, but befuddling guards on a path of vigilante justice has solid entertainment value. Zorro: The Chronicles is a sound experience for families and gamers of all ages looking for a new hero to pursue justice with.
Comedic combat executions
Solid sword fighting and whip controls
Unlockable abilities and stage collectables
Awkward camera angles
Visual quirks like blurred motion and collision physics