Zombie Night Terror20th July, 2016
Copy provided by publisher.
Being the mastermind of the apocalypse isn’t a new idea in games, though one severely underused. Stubbs the Zombie was the first that I remember doing this. It was flawed, but a game I still have fond memories of. Other games like Zombie Tycoon, Destroy All Humans (aliens) and even, to an extent, Prototype have all played with the idea of spreading a virus or your influence around against the human race.
It’s a good thing as well. There’s no doubt that it’s easy to see a game with zombies in and think “Oh god, another zombie game”. The use of zombies has been an infestation over the past decade. Zombie Night Terror picks up the idea of causing the apocalypse. It also does it with a style that’s almost impossible not to like.
There’s a new drug in town. It’s called Romero, made by a chemist working for a big drug dealer. The one side-effect is that it’s killing the clients and turning them into zombies. As the leader of your little zombie horde you are able to control the horde in small but substantial ways. It may seem at first that the game has only basic controls. You give zombies basic direction, click an arrow to direct zombies to walk up or past stairs. Select specific doors that you want them to either destroy or ignore. Thankfully, this reliance on the Romero walkers is developed and built on very quickly. Though you can always turn more people into roamers by giving them this drug, called Romero.
Very soon you’ll be evolving zombies into new types. There’s the Overlord which gives set directions to any other zombie. You can use the Crawler which is effectively the hunter from Left 4 Dead. It’s impossible to forget the bullet soaking tank, the brute of your force. Abilities include increased speed, turning them into the zombies from 28 days Later. You can give them a little more brain power, letting them climb ladders. Adding new elements to the zombies is the ability to jump, letting them leap long distances. It’s the combination of these abilities that enhance the tactical nuance of Zombie Night Terror. Thankfully, they are all simply explained through in-game news segments.
To use any of these abilities or mutations requires Human DNA. This DNA is gained through either bringing other humans into your fold, or through pickups found in some of the levels. There are limitations to this DNA, you always have a maximum amount. This usually means you need to use some of it because killing more people as any gained from them is simply lost. This can be devastating at some points where your limit is low and stringing together a few mutations will deplete your amount in seconds.
Increasing the need of a tactical approach is that they are also very good at defending themselves against your horde. Some are armed with small guns or baseball bats. You can later find yourself up against officers armed to the teeth with assault rifles. Sending your zombies into the wrong situation will see them taken down before they even get to groan. What helps then, is that the game lets you pause and trigger abilities as you need them. This is a real saving grace of Zombie Night Terror as you can sometimes need to be pixel-perfect to choose the right zombie. Without pausing it could have also been a split-second decision requiring multiple clicks.
Adding little twists to the levels is what really sets Zombie Night Terror apart from so many other games. It’s never just a one-hit note that tasks you with changing increasingly armed humans in a brutal game of alternative-pokémon. You may be tasked with escaping a hospital to spread the infection. One level set on the underground will have you trying to outrun the trains. A number of levels will test your tactical abilities by both limiting the number of zombies and DNA to meet a specific goal. Each of the forty levels also has a secret objective which is always possible to achieve.
Further setting Zombie Night Terror apart is an absolutely astounding visual style. Aside from very select colors, the game is monochrome. This works in so many ways because the eventual huge amount of blood will enhance how brutal your march of death is. Barrels that act as pickups are bright green, highlighting their location perfectly, as is the TV whenever it wants to tell you some new information. It never fails to highlight particular areas. Never needing to resort from taking control from you and outright showing you what to do.
The pixel art throughout all this is very endearing. While far from a beautiful game, particularly so if you ever zoom close in on the zombies as it shows them just that bit too blocky, Zombie Night Terror is actually a great game to look at and watch. The amount of detail placed in each level is outstanding. Buildings are laid out, the backdrops of cities, subways, rural areas and more are outstanding. Animations are, for the most part, smooth and fluid. Only really hindered by the pixel style that the game opts for. The care and attention to detail that’s gone into this game is impossible not to notice.
Working with this is an excellent use of sound. Any dialogue is done in the same sort gibberish language found in The Sims or Magicka. It works well simply by not leaving them with no audio at all for even the little dialogue found in the game. The music found in Zombie Night Terror is mostly forgettable. It never noticeably changes too much, neither increasing tension or even just moving away from the same simple tones that are, purposely I assume, reminiscent of horror film themes. Particularly a mixture of Night of the Living Dead and Halloween.
Honestly, there’s very little that Zombie Night Terror suffers from. There’s no doubt that, for the most part, the puzzles don’t offer a huge challenge. This is rescued by the side objectives, which often give the challenge that any particular level needs to make it replayable. The humour found in the game is certainly forced at parts, though I may be easy to please because I found myself laughing along more times than not. Of course I can’t help but reiterate that the visuals will not be for everybody. Though the pixel-art style works for me, some people will be turned away by it. Particularly so when it means that the game can require a little too much perfection in your clicks.
As a whole though, I genuinely like Zombie Night Terror. It’s a great game. It lets you create the zombie apocalypse instead of yet another game that tasks you with killing a load of zombies. It gives you something to think about. While never being truly difficult, you will still need to think about what you’re doing and act accordingly. It’s impossible to not only note that this is a game that won’t set you back a lot. The full price is £9.99 or €/$12.99 respectively, though it’s been 15% off since launch. It’s a good length and low price for a great indie game that makes it so zombie’s aren’t boring. Buy it.
Zombie Night Terror is a great little tactical game, with a distinct art style and direction that makes zombies interesting again. At a low price, offering a good length that offers replay value in side objectives, there's no doubt that this is a game that should be looked at and is worth your time.
- Excellently detailed pixel-art style, using monochrome, adds a lovely stylistic feel to the game. Combining well with the tactical approach of the game, it offers a fun, interesting and fulfilling time that makes zombies interesting again.
- The art will certainly not appeal to everybody, especially when it can be damning when you're trying to select a specific zombie. The humour of the game can sometimes fall flat and the levels mostly offer little challenge.