Sawbuck Gamer

Zenkaimura

Mission: Inscrutable

Zenkaimura is nuts and incomprehensible, but in a good way.

By Jason Reich • January 17, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.

I’m always amused when advertisers describe their products with meaningless adjectives that merely identify some inherent attribute of the product itself, such as calling a beer “drinkable” or a car “driveable” (as though all those other beers or cars don’t possess such sought-after qualities). I’m sure the Japanese have a word that succinctly describes what exactly Zenkaimura is all about, but since I possess neither the foreign language skills nor the hard psychedelic drugs to adequately make sense of it, you’ll forgive me for describing the game as “playable.” That’s not a knock. On the contrary, I found the game tremendously entertaining. It’s just that—dear sweet Lord, what is happening here?

According to research by the intrepid Gameological localization team, Zenkaimura is actually a parody of another game called Houkaimura, or “Breaking Town.” Very much a Ghosts ’N’ Goblins gone off the rails, this reboot sends an apple-headed hero into a forest full of grotesque demons. It’s simple: “Z” jumps and “X” fires. And what kinds of things might our naked protagonist be firing? I’m glad you asked. Pea pods, boomerangs, tennis balls, flamethrowers, ink splatters, and rampaging monkeys are among the available weapons. (I played through the entire game and I’m still not sure I discovered all of them.) Some power-ups are better than others, but the fun is more in stumbling across some bizarre new item than in exploiting the killing power thereof.

The game ends after eight levels, its final moments implying that our hero’s ordeal has had critical repercussions for all mankind. Perhaps the insanity masks a deeper message after all. Or maybe it’s just more batshit craziness. Zenkaimura is just as “playable” either way.

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  • Moonside_Malcontent

    The title screen is like looking at Magritte’s The Son of Man while in the Sistine Chapel and also on acid.

    • Moonside_Malcontent

       Never mind.  It appears the whole game is like that, actually.

    • WL14

      You win vacations. Congratulations sir.

  • vinnybushes

    I know the Japanese name for ghosts and goblins is Makaimura (thank you gamecenter cx) so it may be more cut and dry than you think, especially since the main character controls just like Arthur, double jump and all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.podgor Mike Podgor

    At one point, I found a golden apple and was treated to “Ascent of Man” style visual where the protagonist eventually became some sort of cyborg, I think.

  • feisto

    If you want to check out all the weapons, the second option on the start screen (below the difficulty option) lets you set your ammo to a single weapon, and it looks like all the in-game weapons are available from the start.