British development studio doubelsix has made a name for themselves through the advent of digital distribution on videogame consoles. While the studio has worked on iOS titles and PC videogames also, it’s the likes of Burn Zombie Burn! and the critically acclaimed Top Gun that have made ‘doublesix’ a name to remember. In All Zombies Must Die!, the studio is simply giving gamers yet another reason to sit up and take note.
The studio’s latest title, All Zombies Must Die!, is considered a spiritual successor to the aforementioned Burn Zombie Burn!, though this time around has been afforded the benefit of a release on multiple formats. It’s essentially a modernisation of the fondly remembered 16-bit classic Zombies (aka Zombies ate my Neighbors), a videogame of which the fans have been crying out for a high-definition re-release for many years. While Konami doesn’t seem willing to listen to this eager fanbase, who’s going to stop someone else stepping in and attempting to please that audience? With of course, that ‘someone else’ being doublesix.
Playing from a top-down perspective, players will control their character just as with any modern twin-stick shoot-‘em-up: left analog stick for movement, right for firing arc. With that as their remit, up to four survivors take on the undead hordes on self-contained maps, each representing a level. However, All Zombies Must Die! is made up of quests, and very few quests will begin and end within the same level, and so players will find they frequently need to work across several of these maps to reach a destination on the other side of Deadhill, the town in which the videogame takes place.
After completing a few basic levels the player is slowly introduced to more complicated aspects of the videogame: new weapons, enemies and eventually the opportunity to level-up. The player has been gaining experience since the very first level, but until reaching the base has been unable to use it. Players can also customise weapons, adding status effects, choose a favoured weapon (for additional bonuses on that specific weapon) and switch characters from this point onwards. Also at this time comes a change to the set-up of the videogame: no longer is the player guided along a linear path, instead they are welcome to take on as many quests as they can find and tackle them in any order they so choose, moving freely about the town as is required.
The intended audience for All Zombies Must Die! is obvious from the start. Full of knowing, self-referential humour, much of the spirit of doublesix’s latest will be missed should the player not have a welcomingly nostalgic view of the 16-bit era. The styling of All Zombies Must Die! also follows this pattern, with a modern take on the familiar ‘edgy’ cartoon appearance that so many videogame titles from the early 90’s were founded upon. It’s a testament to the visual design that the player is rarely unsure of which terrain they are able to traverse and where the boundaries of each map lie, showcasing the progression and lessons learnt in development over the past twenty years: as much as All Zombies Must Die! wears it’s retro influences on it’s sleeve, it doesn’t suffer from the same flaws.
Unfortunately, Electronic Theatre did witness a rather disheartening bug in the final release version of All Zombies Must Die!: the videogame would very occasionally crash unexpectedly, though oddly not when at it’s busiest, but rather when attempting to quickly progress through the end-of-level round-up. These round-ups do occur far more often than you might wish for but they do also act as the automated save point, so it’s a rough-and-smooth situation. The few times the crash occurred however, happened prior to the automated save being executed.
Despite this minor irritation, All Zombies Must Die! is still a fantastic new shoot-‘em-up release designed for multiplayer mayhem. All Zombies Must Die! provides the kind of retro gameplay with a modern lick of paint that the Xbox LIVE Arcade was designed for. It’s a perfectly formed videogame experience that without the option of digital delivery would never have found its way to market, and that would’ve been a greater crime than ignoring All Zombies Must Die! now the opportunity is available to purchase it.