Zombies. – Review
by Adam B
Going forward, I will be realigning my core reviewing processes in order to facilitate a results-driven paradigm shift in author/reader interactions. Leveraging bleeding-edge technology solutions to create synergy with The Cloud, I believe we can collaborate to create a win-win crowd-sourced solution to overcome the challenges posed by the traditional review concept. Now, having read those opening lines, do you feel like caving my head in with a baseball bat? If so then Zombies. may be the game for you. Created by one-man Canadian indie developer and musician bignic, Zombies tells the tale of one poor Dude from IT and his struggle against the mindless zombie hordes of Management; armed only with his wit and an increasingly devastating array of weaponry he must fight his way to the top, woo the hot red-haired girl and try to avoid being promoted.
I must admit going into this that I’m pretty much done with zombies as concept; they’ve been done to death – if you’ll forgive the expression – in just about every format and the endless attempts to add variety to them (Look! These can run!) is starting to reek a little of desperation. However, I’m willing to overlook just about any premise if a game is fun and Zombies. is fun. It’s a simple setup: an isometric, pixel-art run-and-gun murderfest – what the kids these days would probably refer to as a “Twin Stick Shooter” for reasons that as a PC gamer I cannot comprehend – in which you must traverse 25 levels of your corporate office building killing zombie managers, rescuing hapless co-workers, defeating bosses and smashing all the things as you pass.
Assisting you on your journey, at various points, are an assortment of allies with better weapons and nicer sunglasses than you who, as ancillary characters, will likely meet an unfortunate end in short order, allowing you to nick their stuff and expand your zombie-killing repertoire. Once you have completed a level in story mode you’re able to jump straight to it in future play-throughs, and for those of you who don’t like stories, there is an Endless Mode that allows you to play on any of the game’s main levels with a full complement of weapons, dropping endless waves of zombie co-workers on you every 30 seconds until the end of time (or until you die).
One of the problems with this style of game is that they tend to get rather repetitive – there are only so many different ways you can kill hordes of enemies after all – and Zombies. does suffer with this in places. On the whole it does a pretty good job of mixing things up, with different environments, different enemies, darkness and the bit where you vomit on giant sandwiches (it doesn’t make any more sense in context, don’t worry). For a couple of levels I was worried that I was going to end up sticking with every zombie survivalist’s staple – the shotgun – as my primary weapon for the whole of the game, but then I found the hairspray and before you could say “Don’t Try This At Home”, the shotgun had been relegated to the magical weapon-storage dimension along with my pistol, baseball bat and the rest of my arsenal. From now on, if a zombie title doesn’t include hairspray as a weapon, I’m going to be seriously disappointed. In fact, make that any game.
The writing is generally pretty sharp with some clever dialogue; most of the jokes work well, and I’m pretty sure that some of those that didn’t were only because I’m English and so didn’t get the North American cultural references. Although some of the voice-acting can be a little iffy at times, it kind of adds to the charm; most real people you meet at work aren’t trained voice-actors, so why would you expect the ones in a game to be? The soundtrack is an excellent collection of chiptune music that swings between upbeat high-energy, dramatic tension-building and slower, more maudlin tracks (such as the wonderfully-titled “Sad Drunk Alone and Fucking Miserable”); it’s a perfect companion to the gameplay and is well worth buying alongside the game itself.
I did encounter a few clipping issues while playing, with both myself and zombies becoming stuck on scenery – although never in a way that I couldn’t free myself with a little wiggling – and occasionally the number keys wouldn’t switch weapon immediately, although the mouse wheel didn’t seem to have the same issue, but otherwise the title was solid throughout my time with it.
There were a couple of times in Endless Mode where I died from zombies being dropped directly on top of me, knocking me back into other zombies, who made short work of me – something that is an avoidable problem. If I die in an endless/survival game mode it should be because I screwed up, not because of unlucky spawning. I will confess that the performance did drop off rather dramatically when I tried to play it in windowed mode while watching a movie on my other monitor, but I don’t think that’s a massively common use-case and so I find it hard to hold that against it too much.
The story is also pretty short; I blew through it on Normal in about four hours, but then you could take the view that these days many full-priced retail releases struggle to manage four hours of story content, and so in actual fact this is an excellent value proposition. When you consider that Zombies. is a solo effort it’s remarkably polished and well put together, far more so than some of the supposedly “professionally made” titles that are released, barely functional, into the world.Pros
- Excellent soundtrack
- Slightly repetitive
- Occasional clipping issues
Zombies. is a fun, well-written little isometric shooter with an excellent soundtrack, a decent variety of content and plenty of corpses. While it is a fairly short title, it generally avoids too much repetition and the Endless Mode gives you plenty of replayability if you want it. It does suffer from occasional clipping issues, but not in a way that will substantially affect your enjoyment.
Zombies. is available direct from the developer, on Desura, GamersGate & the iOS App Store – all for less than a fiver – and is listed on Steam Greenlight, so may find its way onto Steam in the near future. The soundtrack is available on Bandcamp or via the developer’s site for the low, low price of $4. It also has hairspray. The hairspray is awesome.
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