Review – REZ PLZ
I was actually just speaking with my wife (fellow reviewer and editor, Heidi Hawes) about the lack of fun couch co-op games lately. We were talking about how we end up replaying games like Gears of War, Halo, or a couple party games on the Switch due to the sheer lack of other options. Out of nowhere, we were approached with an offer to review REZ PLZ, and after watching the trailer we both gave an emphatic yes.
The reason we got excited for the game isn’t because it was just another co-op game, but actually the unique way it uses both of you during gameplay. In REZ PLZ you play as brothers Arcan and Zeph, who are aspiring wizards. Before they could learn any actual spells, the school is overrun by an evil force, Dark Arcanum. The only thing the brothers have now is a resurrection scroll to somehow fight against Dark Arcanum.
The resurrection scroll is the heart of REZ PLZ and I’m sure the reason it’s named as such. This scroll allows the brothers to use a gem to resurrect each other from the most gory of deaths. However, the deaths won’t be from normal mistakes like in other platformers. Instead, you’ll need to use your death as a means to move forward.
For instance, sacrificing yourself on a spike pit so your partner can use your body as a platform. Jumping on a dangling meat hook to impale yourself so your partner can use your lifeless corps like a swing. Catching yourself on fire to ignite a shrine, and letting your flesh burn off so your partner can use your skull to hold down a button. Jumping into a swinging axe to be cleaved in two so both halves of your body can press down multiple buttons.
It’s various situations like this that make it entertaining to figure out the puzzles and how to proceed. However, you don’t have an unlimited amount of lives, so you can’t continue to experiment forever. Once you’re out of gems, a grim reaper will come hunting for the last remaining player unless you can find another gem quickly. There is a nice balance of puzzle difficulty, with some being a breeze and others needing a lot of team work. Once you figure out the key of how you should die (weird phrasing, I know), the rest is up to your platforming skills.
As you proceed through the chapters, Arcan and Zeph will gain new magic abilities introduced by the ghost of their mentor. This allows REZ PLZ to remain fresh with its murderous ways. The brothers will gain abilities such as turning themselves into boulders, absorbing and throwing fire balls, and summoning a small dragon to glide upon. All of these will combine with the theme of death to create a great variety of puzzles and funny scenarios. Word of caution, if you roll off an edge as a boulder and you land on your partner, they will be crushed into bloody chunks.
A lot of the fun we had with REZ PLZ came from its humor. Not only from the written jokes and dialogue, but from the random deaths that happen. The emergent gameplay flukes that ended up working out, or hilariously backfiring and killing both of us equally made us laugh. The only time failing felt frustrating was if it was an issue with the game or repeating the chapter lead to long unskippable dialogue.
While we had a ton of fun, there were a handful of small issues that lead to some frustrations. The camera would get stuck when it would pan over to reveal what a button unlocked or moved. If you pressed more than one button, it would pan over and then freeze, not moving back to the players. Some other issues happened with portals not behaving the same as one another. Some would shoot you out of the other end quickly, while other times you’d get stuck and have to wiggle out.
Another problem was with the platforming forcing you to slide off your partner’s corpse if you didn’t jump directly on top of them. The camera issue was avoidable once we learned what was triggering the freezing, but when the portal issues and platforming sliding were random, it hurt an overall fantastic experience.
The visuals are an interesting blend of the old school pixelated look, but in a new way of showing off far more detail. The small details and animations are well done despite its older stylized visuals. Not many fancy effects blended within the pixelated look like in Octopath Traveler, but it still has its distinct look. My one criticism here is that within each chapter, the levels feel far too similar. They all retain the exact same aesthetic which leaves you wanting to move on towards the end of the chapter. A bit more visual variety within each chapter would have helped a lot.
Sound design is very tame in REZ PLZ and not because there isn’t a decent soundtrack. During boss arenas, there is a good sounding rock track that plays in the background, but way in the background. The audio mixing for the soundtrack is so low you can barely hear it, let alone try and appreciate it. As far as the various sound effects, I couldn’t tell if they purposefully went for bad quality to mimic the older pixelated style. But the various sounds are not well done either way. While pixelation harkens back to old styles, they mixed enough fine details in to be able to use better sounding effects to compliment the detailed pixel art.
REZ PLZ was a fantastic surprise that had a great idea and fully dove into it. It fills a void in the video game industry that has mostly turned its back on couch co-op. Not only it does that pretty well, but it also provides a unique experience full of humor and brain teasing puzzles. Invite a friend over and enjoy some good couch co-op gameplay together, it’s probably been a while anyway.
Visuals go for a more old-school pixelated feel, but there is a nice amount of fine detail and style. Levels within each chapter can become too repetitive in design, however.
A puzzle platformer with a very fun twist. Needing to use your co-op partners corpse in various ways to progress is a ton of fun. Small issues with delayed transitions can be annoying.
Sound design isn’t very notable, and I can’t tell if the low quality sound effects are on purpose or not. The soundtrack has some interesting choices but the audio mixing is so low that you barely hear it.
The fun, and at times challenging, gameplay of using death to your advantage leads to some great entertainment. The humor throughout is also a delight. Issues with camera glitches and some odd movements bring it down a bit.
Final Verdict: 8.0
REZ PLZ is available now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC.
Reviewed on Xbox One X.
A copy of REZ PLZ was provided by the publisher.