System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam, iOS and Android)
Developer|Publisher: Ground Control Studios
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US E (Everyone)
Price: UK £2.69 | EU €2,99 | US $3.25 | CA $4.22|AU $ 4.50
Release Date: 16th April 2020
Review code used, with many thanks to Ground Control Studios!
While this is a complete review of my thoughts on the game, I haven’t beaten it yet! When we got issued the code, we were challenged to list the level that we couldn’t beat; I’m not beaten yet, but it’s taken me so long to get this far that I figured I owed this awesome head-scratcher a write-up.
ZHED has gone above and beyond to keep the game simple – all you have to do is highlight the target square, using the path squares available. It’s a little difficult to explain in writing, but I’ll give it a go (or you can download the demo and try it for yourself); each path square has a number assigned to it, which is how many spaces you can move from that square in either the vertical or horizontal axis. If two paths cross, then the already placed squares count as a “free step” and the intersecting path will move over that square without detracting from your count.
It’s a mechanic I haven’t seen used in games before, let alone had a whole game dedicated to, but I thoroughly enjoy playing it. ZHED is a back-to-basics puzzle game that decided what it wanted to do and optimised that, rather than trying to add too many bells and whistles and becoming over-complicated. The simple but addictive “just one more level” feeling has been an excellent distraction during this international Covid-19 chaos, that’s for sure!
Graphics and Sound
There’s something about a clean, crisp-looking game with a very simple aesthetic that just makes my brain happy. ZHED, as with the gameplay, hasn’t been over-decorated with distracting graphics and attention-grabbing sound design. Everything is minimal, and it makes the game more memorable because of it.
My only complaint is the colour scheme – it shifts every 10 levels, and while some were pleasing to the eye some were just wholly overwhelming and too much of a contrast, which made getting through those levels much more difficult purely because of the strain on my eyes. I can’t be sure whether that’s because of my eyes, or whether other people have found a similar issue, but I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments.
I love ZHED, and am going to keep pushing for that Level 100 completion, but it is far from an easy game. It starts out really simple, and I found some considerably easier levels mixed in as I got further into the game, but there was many a time I had to just put it down and come back the next day because I could not figure out the current level. I did notice, however, that when I came back the next morning I managed to solve it almost straight away, so maybe I was playing too much in a day and not consuming enough caffeine!
ZHED is minimalist, challenging, and a thorough joy to play. It may get frustrating at times, but that never stopped me coming back and won’t stop me shooting for Level 100!
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up