This is the Zodiac Speaking, the review: a thriller that does not hit the mark

Who I am
Valery Aloyants
Author and references

Who is the Zodiac? Good question, given that fifty years have passed since his last (inde) encrypted message and no one has yet managed to trace the identity of one of the most disturbing serial killers who terrorized California at the turn of the sixties and seventies. The homonymous film by David Fincher, with a first-rate cast (including the stars of Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr and Jake Gyllenhaal) traces its contours using all the information available until 2007, the year of its release. ; not much more has been known since then, although in recent times technological advances have made the case resume. He will succeed This is the Zodiac Speaking to add some details to the intricate events? Let's find out in ours review.

A reporter in the footsteps of the killer

In short, our murderer not only had a passion for young women, on which he raged with sadistic savagery (five victims attributed to him with certainty, even if he himself claims to have sent many more to the cemetery), but also for the journalism and riddles: after the ruthless executions, he sent the details of the murders (of which only the author could be aware), and above all of the encrypted messages, to the local newspapers. Of the four published full page, only the first has been fully translated: the one in which the Zodiac killer explained the reasons for his actions and threatened to blow up a school bus in order to bring pain to as many American families as possible (fortunately words were not followed by deeds). This is precisely the episode that opens the second effort of the Polish studio Punch Punk Games (the first was Apocalipsis). In the shoes of the journalist Robert Hartnell (probable alter ego of Paul Avery, reporter who for years dedicated himself to revealing the identity of the man behind the mask) we should go to Mount Diablo, a hilly town near San Francisco, where Zodiac has given us an appointment: the goal is to foil the plan at the school bus and hand it over to law enforcement, but things will not go as planned ...

Anatomy of a murder

In an intertwining of the ghosts of Robert's past, characterized by a difficult childhood and the mysterious disappearance of a little girl, and an obsession with solving encrypted messages, the player is transported to the scenes of two of the crimes committed by Zodiac, with the goal of reconstructing the chronological order of events and saving, at least spiritually, the souls of the poor victims. The first case to be solved is that of Riverside, theater in 1966 of the murder of Cherri jo bates, an eighteen year old student first approached and then stabbed with unprecedented violence. Although there are no certainties about the author, many clues lead to Zodiac, above all a rambling poem engraved on a bench of the university attended by the young woman. The second investigation, in turn divided into three acts, revolves around the aggression of Lago Berryessa (just that of Glory Hole), where the serial killer stabbed, in 1969, Bryan Calvin Hartnell e Cecelia Ann Shepard. The boy managed to save himself from the six stab wounds inflicted on his back, while poor Cecelia lost the battle with death after two days of agony.

The player's task is, quite simply, to explore the areas of aggression, solving trivial environmental puzzles and collecting all the clues in order to have an overall picture of what happened; then, once the events have been put in order, retrieve the cipher and move on to the next level, where we need to investigate the second part of the murder and so on. Everything is complicated (if you want: the lowest difficulty level eliminates the root problem) by the indiscreet presence of the killer who obviously cannot be dealt with. To avoid being identified, you must therefore move slowly in the shadows, taking advantage of the limited shot only to move away when you start to feel the smell of burning. If you are "caught" you have to start from the beginning of the level, fortunately maintaining the progress obtained up to that moment.

Unsatisfactory technical implementation

Everything, as anticipated, mixes with the lived Robert Hartnell, in whose past domestic violence and the figure of a girl called Goose are intertwined. To chase away the ghosts that are driving him to madness, the protagonist relies on the care of a psychologist who, between one investigation and another, asks him questions whose answers are not at all obvious (such as the choice of one of three photographs that have no apparent connection with the events) and whose choices will also affect the ending, which is reached for the first time after about five hours. The maps they are quite small, so the backtracking that the game often forces is not that annoying; however it must be admitted that the stealth phases are rarely effective in transmitting anxiety and fear and more than once it will be tempting to (re) start the adventure by completely eliminating the presence of Zodiac to enjoy the reconstruction with more calm (and less frustration) events, especially interesting for those who are not very knowledgeable about the case.

Technically, the Punch Punk Games project is a very small thing. The minimalist graphics adapt to the noir atmosphere (we have appreciated it in other detective stories such as This is the Police), but the settings would have needed more breathing space and above all more attention to detail. The maximum resolution, FullHD, is somewhat limited by modern standards; in addition there are some annoying bugs, such as settings not being saved and freezing of the mouse pointer in the inventory screens, which should be quickly fixed. The literally unsustainable English dubbing (the Spanish is completely missing): whoever lent the voice to Zodiac, clearly unsuitable for the role, found nothing better than opening the vowels to restore the idea of ​​the schizophrenic killer; and things don't get much better with the alter egos of Robert and the doctor who treats him. On the other hand, the dynamic soundtrack that adapts according to how close the enemy is and manages to raise the player's alert level is not bad. A few unexpected screams then help keep the tension high.

PC System Requirements

Test Setup

  • Operating system: Windows 10 64bit
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 9 3950X
  • Video card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080
  • Memory: 32 GB of RAM

Minimum requirements

  • Operating system: Windows 7/8/10 64bit
  • Processor: Intel Core i3 3.0 GHz
  • Memory: 4 GB of RAM
  • Scheda video: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 2GB VRAM
  • DirectX: 11 version
  • Memory: 1 GB of available space


Tested version PC Windows Digital Delivery Steam


Readers (3)


Your vote

This is the Zodiac Speaking is a potentially interesting project penalized by an inadequate technical realization. This indie title also lacks from the content point of view, and we are not referring only to the short duration of the campaign, but to an excessive repetition of the missions and to the environmental puzzles that have been too phoned. The figure of one of the most indecipherable serial killers is the driving force behind a story that, while dealing with adult and violent themes, does not differ from the clichés of the noir genre. Good representation of the two crime scenes: those who devoured Fincher's film and fans of unsolved cases will like it.


  • The figure of the Zodiac is fascinating in its own way
  • Rigorous historical reconstruction
  • Technically poor
  • Repetitive game mechanics
  • Few content
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