Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: All Zombies Must Die

It’s a lazy trope of journalism but in the case of All Zombies Must Die it’s hard to resist the urge to sum it up simply by combining two existing games, ie: It’s like Gauntlet meets Dead Rising 2. In fact, we won’t resist the urge. Its isometric (almost top down) four-player food-dependent twin-stick mob-twatting combined with the ability to harvest and craft numerous implements into a single zombie-slaying weapon do call to mind both Gauntlet and Dead Rising 2.

We’re not even going to be ashamed of using the “meets” trope, we’re just going to point out the fact that we’ve done it in a knowing way, in much the same way that All Zombies Must Die knowingly points out the weakness of its dialogue and use of old school game mechanics.

Up to four cartoon characters can fight their way round a zombie filled town, battling squads of comparatively feeble ordinary zombies mixed with slightly tougher mutants and the occasional ‘enraged’ horde of tougher red zombies. Set light to them before you kill them and you’ll increase the likelihood of one type of loot drop, make their ears ring with a siren before you send them back to hell and you’ll get a different loot. By collecting and combining the right types of loot you can craft fiery sticks, radioactive shotguns and the like. Along the way you’ll earn XP for kills and quests, which can be spent on upgrading your characters attack, defence, health and speed. You can also spend XP to reassign your favourite weapon, and gain a buff from using it.

The capsule summary tells you everything you need to know the mechanics, but not the experience of playing the game, which is not dissimilar to a Lego title. It’s too much fun to ever abandon in its entirety, but just about repetitive enough to stop you from being engrossed enough to play for ours. It's a game that rewards short bursts of play, an hour here, half an hour there, and as long as you keep it short you’ll keep coming back to it. Give it too long, however, and you might start to find it a little tiresome.

The combat is largely superficial, but the opportunity to chase upgrade points and tweak your weapons and character provides enough motivation to overcome the slightly shallow bash and blast action, as do the enjoyable sound effects. We’ve often thought that novelty sound effects are the holy grail of casual, indie and XBLA games; find the right sound effect and you could sell a million copies of a single-button button-basher off the back of it. AZMD doesn’t quite uncover that holy grail, but it comes close enough to keep you grinning.

That smile will fall from your face as you come to realise quite how limited the game environments are, and how often you’ll trek across them on the games endless list of fetchquests. Once again, the longer you play the game, the less you’ll like it. Treat it like a casual game for short, beery bursts with your mates, however, and it will keep you entertained. If we could, we’d give it a ‘rent it’ but as that’s not possible for an XBLA title we’ll latch on to the affirmatives and say ‘Buy It’.

Reviewed on Xbox 360