Zombies: an overused concept in the gaming world. From role-playing games to first-person-shooters, they seem to be included just about everywhere. Fortunately, this game doesn’t focus on zombies, but something synonymous with them. In Zombies., you battle something far worse than just mindless, possessed creatures taking on the form of humans. You fight against hordes of monsters we deal with in our daily lives. We call them “middle management.” In this twist of irony, Zombies. is a game where you battle “middle management zombies” in a Canadian corporate office as an average employee named Dude. Does this twist on the zombie genre make this game any more entertaining? Short answer: not really.
Zombies. is a retro-styled action game where you fight through the building of Supercorp afters its managers start turning into real zombies and infecting everyone else. What makes this different from any other zombie game? Honestly, I continued asking myself that after playing through the game numerous times. All it really did was provide ammunition for their attempts at corporate humor. Every cutscene consists of awfully recorded voice acting which, intentional or not, becomes very un-enjoyable to listen to after the first several occurrences. Unfortunately, this is mixed with terribly forced foreign accents for a few of the characters. While I know this is all intentional to keep the game entertaining, it didn’t work well for me.
Between fighting hordes of employees to boss fights against managers, the gameplay is very simple. For every level, your goal is to run through an office floor to an exit. To make things more complicated, every floor has a horde of zombies ready to eat your brains that you can either ignore or destroy. Along with fighting or avoiding zombies, the early levels of the game allow you to rescue other non-infected employees. This makes the game more challenging as these non-player characters(NPCs) follow similar movements as your own. For example, say you’re fighting a zombie in a cramped room with a few employees following. You retreat because you find yourself in a bad position; what will the NPCs do? They’ll move forward into that room with the zombie, get attacked, and if you’re lucky enough escape alive. I’ve had this occur several times and it eventually became so irritating, I ignored saving them entirely. It doesn’t seem as if the player is rewarded for saving everyone anyway, if the few times I’ve done so mean anything. Another feature included to artificially increase the length of the game is the option to “break things.” At the end of every level, a results screen appears telling you how many people were saved, how many zombies were killed, and how many “things” were broken. By things, the game means the environment. Everything in the game can be broken; walls, desks, shelves, office supplies, name it. Unfortunately, breaking everything per level is a very tedious process. It becomes even worse to accomplish as some “things” that must be destroyed are right after the exit of a floor. Without ranged weapons, it’s difficult to do without accidentally finishing the level. Destroying all zombies on the floor immediately ends each level as well, so at least one must survive for a completionist to save everyone and break everything. Again, I’ve yet to see any reward for going through this trouble.
Zombies aren’t the only monsters in the game. There are a few more unique enemies to fight such as, as the game describes, a thing that looks like an anus with ranged attacks, a giant mouth on the ground that will eat anything near it, and a black hole where “creativity goes to die.” While some of the unique enemies in the game are jokes related to how corporations work, the rest are either incredibly random or going right over my head.
“Dude” is provided with various weapons to destroy the zombies with. He starts off with his fists which result in a very slow process of zombie killing. With progression comes new weapon additions to your arsenal. You eventually get a bat, a handgun, a shotgun, and even hairspray to use as a flamethrower. Unfortunately, a majority of the weapons become completely useless. Once I obtained the shotgun, it didn’t seem as if any other weapon in the game, whether previously or eventually earned, was worthwhile. Along with having a widespread and powerful shot, it has a massive range, shoots through all objects, and has a large knockback. Ammunition isn’t a problem when nearly every zombie seems to drop so much that it’s difficult to deplete it without shooting carelessly. Fortunately for the developers, their other weapons become useful in boss fights as they do not drop ammunition and it’s easy to run low.
Along with your basic weaponry, there are power-ups that can be collected by killing zombies. The only offensive power-ups I’ve managed to get were fireballs, shurikens, and damage multipliers. Fireballs and shurikens are fired automatically whenever you attack and the damage multiplier increases your damage based on the value picked up. I’ve personally found multipliers for x2, x3, and x10. While the game never explained the “x10” item that I picked up, I noticed even my weaker weapons killing zombies in a single hit. The other items I’ve found increased movement speed and nullified damage. None of the power-ups are explained throughout the game, so some guessing on their effects are involved, and they all last for a limited amount of time.
The game isn’t as challenging as I had hoped even with multiple difficulty options. Along with how overpowered some of the weapons are, the shotgun specifically, most of the boss fights can be exploited in one way or another. With the right weapons, a boss can be stunlocked into a corner or behind an object and become a wonderful target practice subject for the rest of the encounter. The final boss fight was just as easy to exploit. It’s safe to say that balanced mechanics were hardly considered during development.
As previously mentioned, the game uses retro-styled visuals. The 8-bit models throughout this game are nothing impressive. “Dude” is a giant white box on top of a blue box with limbs, the zombies are giant red, yellow, or any other randomly colored boxes, and the boss characters include accessories such as hats, ties, or giant bosoms while falling under the same condition as the basic zombies. The unique monsters such as the aforementioned giant mouth or black hole feature far more detail than any character in the game and the environment has easily been given the most love. While nothing amazing by definition, every area of the game looks as if the 8-bit style was pushed closer to its limits. The office cubicles, the vehicles in parking lots, and even the meeting rooms look as if the graphic artists focused on quality. Enemy projectiles, however, are so small in size in most cases that it’s hard to notice when I’m actually being attacked. They blend in too well with most areas of the game. Imagine my surprise when my health randomly dropped for several seconds until I realized a zombie was attacking me with a tiny brown square that was hardly noticeable. This really hurt my appreciation of the art direction.
Possibly the most positive aspect of this game is the music. Every track in the game is very satisfying and appreciated. After starting the first stage, I was distracted by how surprising the music sounded. As I progressed, the background music kept its pleasing quality. But no matter how pleasant the music might be, I didn’t feel as if they were applied to the right situations. They didn’t match the game’s atmosphere at all, save for a few tracks such as the boss intro, main menu, and the credits. In the end, I accepted the fact that the game had something astonishing to listen to after realizing how negative everything else felt.
And with everything acknowledged above comes the biggest problem with the game. Zombies. isn’t rewarding at all. The story of the game, if it can even be called that, is just about Dude fighting Supercorp’s zombies with corporate stereotypes thrown in. Once the game is completed, there is no ending. The credits appear immediately after the final boss fight and then you’re thrown into the main menu again. The game obviously focuses on the journey rather than the final destination, but a mediocre journey with nothing to reward the player with in the end provided me with major disappointment. It’s always possible saving everyone, killing everything, and breaking everything changes this, but even my patience didn’t last forever.
This game is simple fun. It may not be a quality title, but it’s worth trying for anyone looking for a casual zombie corporation game to play. This game is probably better suited to phones or tablets than PC considering how little it offers and the ease of picking them up and playing anywhere to waste time. It also doesn’t help that using the scroll wheel, whether an accident or not, in the main menu always locks the game so it requires closing via task manager, a problem that can hopefully be avoided by future updates or use of alternate devices.
For those interested in Zombies., a demo is available on bignic’s official site along with the game’s soundtrack. If you enjoyed it, don’t forget to vote for it on Greenlight to have it available on Steam. The game can currently be purchased on Desura, the AppStore, GamersGate, and from bignic itself via PayPal. And don’t forget: fuck paperwork. Blow some shit up.
GAME NAME: Zombies.
PLATFORM(S): PC, IOS
GENRE(S): Action, Shoot-em-up
RELEASE DATE(S): September 10th, 2012