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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: Zombies Ruined My Day (Xbox LIVE Indie Games)


Zombies Ruined My Day. The name says it all, doesn't it?

But even though it's got a pretty self-explanatory title, click on through for the full review of this surprisingly deep little indy game from developer Mancebo Games.

Office... of Terror!
The Xbox marketplace is awash with independent titles that usually get lost in the shuffle. Since there's really no advertising, other than the Summer Uprising, it easy to lose track of some gems that are floating around out there in the ether.

Zombies Ruined My Day is one of those gems- well, lets call it a rough gem. This little guy is deceptively simple, but if you can make it past the unpolished edges, the more layers you'll find. Just take a look at the screens and what do you see? Buncha zombies and a tiny player character blasting away right? There's actually a lot more to it than that though.

One thing you should know about ZRMD before we get too deep into it, is that there's really not a great narrative to be found here. Basically, your character has a date -his first date with the girl- and there's a zombie outbreak. So what's a boy to do but start blasting away (with a gun that he mysteriously pulls out of thin air) and go after his would-be girlfriend.

And that's... it. But don't get caught up in that because this isn't really about backstory or pretty much anything that makes sense in any way... this is about shooting zombies. Lots and lots of zombies.

Zombies Riding a Coaster? Madness...
The undead in the game come in a few flavors, but the majority of them are your standard, run of the mill shambler variety. Special ones, though, all have something to give to you... other than an infected bite wound. Take for instance, the construction worker- he drops barricades that effectively add some light tower defense elements.

Drop the barricades wherever you like on the screen and they'll hold back the horde (for a bit) while you plug away at 'em. I personally enjoyed lobbing a grenade into a penned up group. Good times. Stuff like this really changes the way you're playing, alters the core game itself, and generally keeps you on your toes.

It helps keep things interesting as well, since the game doesn't change all that much from level to level. Your character is, literally, in the middle of a zombie onslaught. Flesh chompers come storming out of doorways and other off screen areas and head for you in a very 'March of the Mini's' way. You have no hit points either so adapting to new items and formulating new strategy is key. If any one of them so much as touches you- then you're a zombie too.

This is Like a Dream I had Once. True Story.
Now all of this is good stuff, but there's three major things holding Zombies back and they don't have anything to do with crowd control. I'm talking about graphics and sound. They're not... um... good. The sound effects and music are both super basic and don't add anything to the atmosphere- and the graphics are all hand drawn (at least, they look like it) in a simplistic style that I'm not sure was entirely meant to be simplistic. It sort of has that 'my kid drew this' feel to it. Maybe with a shake or two of graffiti art sprinkled across it.

And that's... oh wait, I said three things didn't I? How could I forget to tell you about the controls?!?  They're not... um... good. Woah... Deja Vu. They're way too complex for a game that throws this many enemies at you at once. Switching between weapons is handled with the bumpers, while moving/shooting uses the sticks and right trigger. Some weapons, like the grenades, use the up arrow on the pad... etc. If this doesn't sound all that bad, I ask you to imagine doing it while having a few dozen zombies about an inch and a half away from your face and not having ay way to escape. S'a little maddening at times.

One other thing (although I'm sure you figured this one out by now) ZRMD isn't easy by any stretch. I found myself breezing through the first few levels and thinking this was gonna be a cakewalk. But the difficulty ramps up pretty quick here. The weapon system adds to it and it's not 'bang your head against the wall' hard (unless you've got the difficulty cranked), but again- it ain't easy.

You shouldn't let the bad points completely scare you away though, because overall I really enjoyed this title. The gameplay is so addictive that I didn't care all that much that the A/V package was lacking or if I felt like some areas were just a little too unforgiving. I kept coming back for more even after losing a billion times (my estimate), that says a lot. Zombies Ruined My Day certainly doesn't garner a perfect score from me, and maybe I'm just a masochist, but I found a lot to like here. Give it a shot and you might too.

- Jason M





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Review: Zombies Ruined My Day (Xbox  LIVE Indie Games)
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