Zombie Night Terror
The zombie genre saw an upswell in popularity within this past decade, probably hitting its apex around 2010 to 2011 with popular shows like The Walking Dead, all sorts of (mostly crappy) movies, print media, and video games galore. By the time 2013’s World War Z came along (starring Brad Pitt), the entire genre had become played out and tired, but of course still had legions of lumbering lemming-like fans that filled seats in multiplexes throughout our country and beyond. Guess these feverishly loyal fans hadn’t received the memo that zombie fare had been beaten beyond un-death.
I, for one, have always been rather snooty in my derisiveness of all of the zombie overkill, since it first started emerging its resurgence. Wolfmen, goblins, fairies, vampires, mummies, and yes, zombies, never seemed very scary to me. Similar to watching someone lumber around in a plastic monster outfit from the 50’s, seeing groups of zombies stagger around just looked corny to me. The only ones that I thought were actually done halfway decently were the sprinting, hell-on-wheels types of zombies presented in the film 28 Days Later.
When I’d first heard about NoClip’s Zombie Night Terror zombie game project, without even seeing it I thought—let’s see, it already has the kitschy 80’s horror flick title, so I bet it’ll also sport pixilated graphics, and somehow be studded with ironies, true to today’s wannabe-cool hipster environment. Well, I happened to be spot-on. What I wasn’t prepared for was that the game is actually not half-bad.
Just as predicted, Zombie Night Terror comes complete with an ironic “twist” in that you, the player, are in control of the zombies this time out. This has been done before in the form of side-games within other titles, such as in the admittedly excellent title, Dying Light, but not as an entire game.
Zombie Night Terror starts off in front of the Palace Theater, where an afro-sporting fellow suddenly decides to gulp down a new drug called “Romero” (get it? hahaha, it’s called Romero, hah-yawn). He happens to have several additional quantities of the drug ready for quaffing, and chooses a few other folks to give it to. From there, they turn into zombies and begin rampaging all over the place, infecting the local populace. I’m sure you get the picture from there…
You play as the overlord of said zombies and it is your job to spread their virulence to the far corners of the Earth (I mean, what else is a zombie apocalypse supposed to do?) in a rather clichéd plot. Throughout the game, you’ll be fed tidbits about the creator of the mysterious drug as well as the general storyline. You’ll also be presented various newscast flashes, featuring a buxom bimbo named April Fox (of course that’s her name), who not only updates what’s going on, but hints you to the various upgrades which are speckled throughout the game’s levels.
These power-ups are very useful, since your enemies are anything but pushovers. Your human prey range from stubborn baseball bat-wielding Al Bundy types, to gun-toting survivalist hillbillies, on up to full-on National Guardsmen. This is where your upgrades come into play—as Zombie Night Terror’s level’s get progressively harder, you can unlock all sorts of useful (and many quite amusing) powers and talents for your zombies to utilize.
Some examples include transforming some of your zombies into large brute-like tanks which can tear through wide swaths of puny humans. Another one enables your zombies to become super agile and fast just like in 28 Days Later, and it was pretty hilarious watching my undead horde rip through unsuspecting pedestrians with relative ease in this state. All of these abilities are fun to unlock so you always have something to look forward to.
However, using many of your zombie’s powers can use up the Zombie Night Terror’s in-game currency: DNA. Since DNA fuels your burgeoning zombie apocalypse, you have to constantly be on the lookout for canisters and vats containing this valuable substance or you will find your zombie-engine growing weaker and weaker. The humans seem very keen to this fact, and as such, are always guarding these areas well. Luckily, you can zoom out and inspect the surrounding areas in order to see where both DNA as well as your human foes are, adding a nice strategic layer to the overall game.
Zombie Night Terror is at its heart a survival horror game with strong puzzle elements. It has many of the ironic horror references of a multitude of zombie franchises from the past, just as I thought they would—I’m sure you can guess which ones those are due to their ubiquity. Zombie Night Terror also reminded me of the Lemmings games of yore, but instead of cutesy little pudgy marsupials to guide, you get to control ravenous, bloodthirsty hordes of decaying zombies that are hell-bent on devouring any living thing in their path.
Zombie Night Terror’s visuals are pixel-based, which are all the rage these days in indie games, since they are not only kitschy and cute, but also easy on the budget to produce. The game’s environments are canvases of black, white, and grey, punctuated only by the sickly green of DNA and the bright crimson of splattered arterial blood. I thought they were okay, but frankly, I’m not on the whole bandwagon of people who think pixelated graphics are somehow “cool.” I’d have rather seen something smoother where it looked like some work was put into them.
In all, I found Zombie Night Terror to be a cut above the recent explosion of pixel-based indie games out there—but just barely. It does contain all of the tired conventions of the zombie genre and seems to use references popularized by the zombie fare that we are all familiar with by now, almost as a crutch in order to not offer anything original on its own, besides the fact that you play the zombies. I’d say Zombie Night Terror is a cute, slightly different take on the (thankfully) quickly fading zombie genre, and hopefully one of the last titles that the gaming industry can try and milk any cash from.
Zombie Night Terror has those pixilated graphics that some people can’t seem to get enough of. Even so, they may require you to have a pretty beefy gaming PC in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming PC:
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