Zarvot is two different games smashed together. One is a surrealist story about voxel-blasting cubes on a journey to bring their best bud a banana for their birthday. The other is a shooty, smashy multiplayer hell-fight simulator where chaos reigns. Both bring their own silly spin on their respective genres.
Zarvot’s title sounds like a fake game from a Tom Hanks film, but the game is very much real and available on the Nintendo Switch. The experience is split between two modes, a loose and comedic story mode and a highly hectic multiplayer battler. In the story mode, you control Charcoal, a sentient cube out to help us friend celebrate their birthday. But that means braving streets full of voxel gangs and other hazards. The good news is that you can shoot laser blasts, turn into a sort of spinning top of death, and zip around with a quick dodge button. There’s an absurdist bent to everything: At one moment, you’re looking for your keys in your apartment, then you have to fight off voxel baddies while you friend—who has no clue how to hack—attempts to hack the ticket terminal on the giant glass jar that you’re about to ride. It’s mostly a frame for playing with the game’s shooting mechanics, but the tone is light and fresh enough that you’ll want to keep playing to see whatever the hell is going to happen next.
Multiplayer is where the game shines, though. I had the joy of playing this game as part of Waypoint’s recent charity livestream, and it felt like a mixture of Smash Bros and Robotron. If you have four players, the screen is bursting with neon lasers and spinning enemies. Punchy sound design hits the sort of old-school arcade feel you imagine when you think of the Platonic version of an arcade. It’s the sort of game that your ironic friend busts out at a party, one you think is going to be super esoteric but is actually a ton of fun. It’s a strange game, but whether you like off-beat stories or killer couch battlers, Zarvot’s got a lot of charm.