Monday, February 11, 2013


Zombies.   Puzzle games.  If I had to pick the two genres least likely to mesh together, I think those might be it.  I've never played Tetris and thought about the undead horde.  Bejeweled never made me think the green gems might eat my brains.   However, apparently someone at Bootsnake Games thought it could be done, and set out to make it a reality.  So, do these genres band together for survival, or does this game need a headshot to put it down?   This week, I sat down to find out.

What were my expectations going in?
Not high, but slightly hopeful.  I gotta be honest, I'm sick to fucking death of zombies, especially in video games.  They were overdone years ago, now the industry is just beating this dead horse into a fine red pulp.  Every video game out there needs to have some kind of zombie DLC even when it doesn't need it.  I'm fucking tired of zombies.  Still, the concept of a puzzle game intrigued me.  A little.

Appropriate screencap is appropriate.

So how was it? 
I think the best review I can give of this game is "I've played worse".   There actually are a few elements in here that could be salvaged, if this game was a prototype, but they're wasted in a sea of poor execution.  The visuals are surprisingly good, but the gameplay is poor.  The story can't decide if it wants to be grim and serious or funny and goofy, and it never finds any kind of balance between the two.  One minute, people are starving, running low on ammo, and dying horrifically; the next minute you're wandering into a renaissance fair and fighting zombie wizards, or onto a college campus and talking about getting "A PhD in Zombie Killing".

And these aren't even the most ridiculous thing you fight.
For a game that bills itself as a puzzle game, the puzzle aspect seems to almost be an afterthought.  The basic gameplay is simple; you're given a field of color-coded survivors: blue cops, green soldiers, orange punks, and pink doctors.  Mixed into this field are zombies, and occasionally obstacles.  Swap your survivors around to surround a zombie group with the same color to eliminate them.  Take too long, and zombies will bite a nearby survivor and turn them. As you progress, new zombies with special abilities will appear.

The controls are a bit confusing and clunky, and the angle makes it very easy to misclick.  Power-ups are gained throughout the game, depending on which color survivor you use to surround a horde, but their use can be awkward.  It wasn't until the final stages of the game that I realized the doctors' containment suits made any survivor into a wild card, able to match with any color.  The airstrikes move in a vertical line, but only horizontally; not vertically.  I mean, I guess you could say this affects your strategy, but really it was just more of an inconvenience.

Seems simple enough, I guess
Not everything in the game is bad.  I really liked the visuals quite a bit.  The survivor and zombie game pieces might look like shit, but the backgrounds are pretty well done.  The game has a fun way of telling the story of the survivors, as the camera flies over the city in one ongoing path for each chapter, zooming in on the survivors for each round of the puzzles.  Words are done in an overlay on streets, buildings, or in the air to tell the story, as you can see in the screenshots.  Menus are done in a sort of retro drive-in aesthetic.  The only downside of all of this is that it seems pretty obvious that they spent more time on the visuals than they did on the actual gameplay.

The humor is silly, but not necessarily in a bad way.  The survivors have some of the worst dialogue I've ever heard, but it has that so-cheesy-it's-awesome quality to it.  Most of it will induce eyerolls and groans, but you can't help but chuckle.  Cops will shoot zombies, announcing "Eating brains is against the law!"   My personal favorite awful line is "Looks like you finally got rest!"  A zombie gorilla and a zombie T-rex make for some challenging boss fights, and make me wonder if someone on the team isn't a Dresden Files fan.

I really don't recommend this game.  It's not the worst game I've ever played, but it's a definite swing-and-a-miss.  It's painlessly short; I beat the entire campaign/story mode in under two hours.  All that was left was an ongoing survival mode.  I'm not sure what audience the game is aiming for, either.  Even diehard puzzle game players will be disappointed by this one.  If happen to see it go on sale on Steam for say, 99 cents?  I suppose it's not a bad way to spend a buck, but I wouldn't pay anything more than that for it.

Play time:  2.5 hours
Finished:  Yes
Recommended:  No
Available For:  PC, iOS devices

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