An indie project developed by a one-man band, Zombies. may seem like an unusual prospect for a publication predominantly concerned with mainstream titles. However, such productions are far more common than you may think, with Electronic Theatre having covered – and even previously reviewed – dozens of such titles in the past, whether you realised that was the case or not. The difference with Zombies. is that we get to see not just one man’s labour of love, but his opinion on many aspects of the development process.
Zombies. is a satirical experience from the off, riffing on many famous modern titles as well as widely known videogame memes. This is not a videogame that is intended to be taken seriously, though neither is it as disposable as such a premise would typically suggest. Zombies. is made for lovers of videogames; for aging gamers that have experienced as much of the industry as they possibly could in their thirty-or-so years of gaming, and Electronic Theatre wouldn’t have it any other way.
Throwing the player straight into the action, the rules are simple: find the exit, locate survivors on the way, and don’t die. Using the WASD keys to move and the left mouse button to attack in the direction of your mouse controlled crosshair, players can punch their way past zombies, but the most likely path to success is to avoid them wherever possible. Remember: the importance of rescuing a character doesn’t lie with how useful they are or what their skills might be, but rather how likely you are to score with the redhead once this is all over.
Players can use objects in the environments as weapons – simply punching some of them will launch them in the direction you are facing – and near everything can be destroyed. Once some progress is made players will gain access to weapons, increasing their durability at a perfect ratio to the increasing numbers of zombies meandering around each level. Boss fights will also occur at irregular intervals, and while they do provide some variation they are sadly a low point in the videogame given that the typical level structure is about reaction speed rather than analysis and execution.
Zombies. has been made a low-fi visual design as a purposeful effort to induce nostalgia. If you weren’t playing videogames in the 1980’s there’s a lot of the implantation that will likely pass you by: the simple movement of a blocky hand to signify a change in direction or the colour of a zombie’s suit determining their strength. These are traits reflected in modern videogames, but not used as a standardised template as they once were on more limited hardware. The amount of detail bignic has managed to deliver though the use of a few basic colours and assumed forms of 2D blocks is simply a masterful piece of graphical design.
Contrary to the purposefully low quality visual design, the soundtrack is simply phenomenal. The voice acting is clearly a group of friends recording in a bedroom/garage/shed (or at the very most a living room studio), but the score is an enviable mix of dance and piano lead pieces, adding considerably to the tension when necessary and the humour when not. Zombies. is a videogame that was created to induce as many subtle smiles as it was irritated restarts, and Simon Pegg influenced script regularly hits those lofty highs.
Available to download for PC now, Zombies. isn’t likely to set the indie gaming scene alight. Its retro stylings and simple gameplay suggest that it has a place amongst the low-budget darlings, a scene that it has become fashionable to love since the rise of iOS, but Zombies. stands apart as a videogame that’s equally referential as it is addictive. bignic hasn’t reinvented the wheel with Zombies., but he has delivered a hugely enjoyable comedic action affair that’s well worth wasting the odd five minutes on when the boss is in a meeting.