Zero Strain review

Zero Strain doesn’t have a proper story mode. It’s basically shoot everything in sight. The game is a fast paced top-down shmup where the players must kill enemies within an arena like level. Zero Strain also adds some MOBA elements to the shoot’em up genre.

Unlike the tradition shmup formula where players go from point A to point B, Zero Strain feels a bit like a fighter where players and their catalyst (ship) have to destroy everything in sight within the arena. Trying to step out of the area will prove costly.

Each catalyst has four different types of attacks. There’s the standard default weapon which is dependant on a yellow meter on the right hand side on the screen. You can run out of ammo, however it doesn’t take long before the meter is full again and you’re ready to fight back. Along with the standard default projectile attack, each catalyst has three additional stronger attacks all of which require to fill their own meter by destroying enemy ships. Each of these attacks can be used with a specific face button assigned to each of them. Once the meter is full, simply press the button and voil√†.

Additionally, you have a shield which protects you from damage. If it sustains too much damage, it will be removed for a short period of time; where you’ll have to be more mindful of your surroundings and avoiding enemy projectiles. You can also dash around in order to avoid the many enemy projectiles that will be gearing towards your catalyst.

The main thing that could potentially keep new players away is the fact that much like typical shmups is that the difficulty ramps up pretty quick. The first level is well-balanced in order to show players the game’s mechanics and get a grasp of the unique arena level design. Once you reach the second level, the game will throw you through waves of intense enemy attacks and sometimes it’s difficult to even keep tabs of your catalyst and enemy attacks.

One of the game’s most interesting features is the boss battles; while difficult and quite challenging, they will test your reflex. Additionally, the arena level design makes it even harder because when you exit the arena, you get additional damage and while it can be a temporary way to avoid damage, it won’t be as beneficial as taking a hit.

As you progress through levels, you’ll pick up catalyst shards. These precious items can be used to create new catalyst with their own unique weaponry. It’s a great way to add gameplay variety and new ships can also be a great way to tackle problematic levels with a new solution.

Zero Strain looks great; colorful, maybe too colorful at times; with a synthwave 80’s inspired look giving a unique visual compared to standard shmup games. The soundtrack is an upbeat poppy synthwave inspired score which goes hand-in-hand with the hectic action on screen. Sometimes, the score does get lost admist the carnage.

Zero Strain is a great addition to the smhup genre. It’s frantic, hectic and challenging; maybe a bit too much. The unique arena like level design will definitely add an additional level of challenge as it reduces safe area space, but it’s definitely worth a try. Shmup aficionados, definitely do not miss this one.

  • 70%
    CX Score - 70%



  • Unique take on the shmup genre
  • Challenging and fun boss battles


  • Difficulty ramps up. Fast.

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