Review – Zero Strain (PS4)

EastAsiaSoft might not be the most notorious for casual gamers, but you sure know and appreciate them if you are a fan of shoot ’em ups, like me. They have an impressive track record with their small yet varied bullet hell titles, such as RXN Raijin, Fast Striker, and the more recent Task Force Kampas. Their effort to keep the bullet hell flame alive is commendable. Just a few months after Task Force Kampas‘s release, they’re back with another neat little shooter for the PS4, Zero Strain.

Zero Strain_20200811174555

This is actually the first boss. It’s quite easy.

Unlike most of EastAsiaSoft’s latest releases, Zero Strain focuses quite a bit on its storyline and that’s a bit of an issue. Simply put, the story is quite confusing. It’s filled to the brim with tons of lines of dialogue and that typical trend of replacing normal gaming terminology with confusing buzzwords to make your title sound more sophisticated than the competition. Ships are called “constructs” and “catalysts”, for instance. Honestly, we’re not here for the plot. We’re here to blow things up. Zero Strain does not disappoint in this aspect, but you’ll need to get used to its mechanics beforehand.

Zero Strain is a free-roaming shooter. It lets you steer your ship in any direction within the limits of the stage. Fly off the arena and you’ll gradually start losing health because… reasons. Your objective in each level varies from either having to defend a structure, defeating a boss, or enduring a series of enemy waves disguised as a linear level. No matter which kind of level you pick, the core gameplay will always revolve around shooting everything in sight.


Lady, it’s a ship. Just call it what it is: A SHIP.

At first, shooting everything in sight will feel a bit odd. The game’s overall movement is reminiscent of a twin-stick shooter, as you are constantly running and shooting at different directions at any given time. However, you only have one stick at your disposal. Your ship actually auto-aims and locks on at the nearest target. It’s really off-putting at first, as you’re more dependent on your ship’s aiming than your own strategy, but you can get used to it after a while.

No matter which of the many ships you choose, you’ll have one main gun, three special moves, and a special passive ability, as if you were playing a character from a MOBA. With the exception of your main gun, which is also your weakest attack, all of your other abilities need to be charged before being used. You can charge each of their individual meters by, you guessed it, blowing up tons of enemy ships. It might be a confusing control scheme, but it’s a simple and entertaining gameplay loop at least.

Zero Strain_20200811182434

The slow but bulky ship ended up being by favorite.

Its progression system is simple. You will be asked to repeatedly complete the same short levels with different ships, as you’ll raise your base’s level every time you do so. The higher your base level, the more levels you can access, and the more ships you can create with the right materials. It goes on like this until the end of the game. There’s an onslaught of small endurance tests and boss fights in which the screen will be completely filled with particle effects and enemy ships until it becomes messier than a cartoon fight dust cloud.

Zero Strain_20200811184925

It’s a mess, but a nice mess.

Zero Strain is an absolute mess of a game, with its metric ton of particle effects and initially confusing control scheme. But don’t get me wrong, it’s the fun kind of absolute mess. It nails the most important aspect of a bullet hell shooter: the great feeling of mowing down hundreds of enemy ships with overpowered weapons, as if you were a god of destruction. For what it’s worth, despite its fair share of shortcomings, I had a good time with Zero Strain and would certainly recommend it to shoot ’em up enthusiasts. It also has a very easy platinum trophy if you’re into this kind of thing.


Graphics: 6.0

A nice mix between low-poly ships and flashy light effects. It also runs at 60fps. Sadly, the amount of ships and explosions onscreen quickly turn Zero Strain into an absolute visual mess.

Gameplay: 6.0

You will need some time to get used to the game’s “twin-stick but not really” control scheme.

Sound: 6.5

The game features a handful of electronic beats that fit somewhat decently with its overall theme and madness, but the amount of loud sound effects spouted every time a ship is blown to pieces makes it hard for you to even realize Zero Strain has a soundtrack to begin with.

Fun Factor: 8.0

It’s an absolute mess of a game, but it’s a fun mess. The game features lots of different ships for you to ride, each one with different attributes and weapons that let you mutilate everything in sight with ease. In true EastAsiaSoft fashion, it’s also a very easy platinum trophy, for those interested in boosting their virtual muscles.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Zero Strain is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Zero Strain was provided by the publisher.