Saturday, January 6, 2018

Review: Bloody Zombies [Nintendo Switch eShop]

The current Switch library has some heavy concentrations of games from specific genres but one that, to date, hasn’t been that heavily represented has been the classic side-scrolling beat-em-up. To this point Wulverblade has pretty well dominated the genre, but conceptually a game featuring a variety of zombies and weapons playing out through a plagued London could have some potential. Unfortunately while some elements do work some critical ones come up short, making Bloody Zombies likely a party mostly for starved genre fans who can overlook its shortcomings.

You’ll be moving through a number of locales in zombie-infested London, with each area containing more progressively challenging foes as well as some environmental dangers. To the game’s credit there is a surprising variety of zombie types you’ll face, even at the cannon fodder level, and you’ll very much need to keep track of which types you’re dealing with in order to be sure you’re ready to deal with their attacks. There are sometimes elements you can trigger in the environment like explosive barrels, or some dangerous mechanical contraptions you need to trigger, that can also lend some strategic variety to the mix if you’re opportunistic and can keep yourself out of danger.

On a general level the ability to do some special moves (which you can find more powerful or useful variations for) and combo is nice, and you can get bonuses for killing multiple zombies or making them explode with a special attack when they’re low on health. Bosses are consistently tricky and will require a very hit and run kind of strategy, dodging their attacks and then coming back in to do damage. Certainly if you’re able to play the game with friends you’ll have a much greater ability to combo up and do more serious damage but even lone wolf players making solid use of the uppercut, can consistently get an air juggle here and there for extra hits.

Unfortunately, the major issue holding the game back has to do with the quality and fluidity of the control. Saying that the control, movement, and execution of special moves is stiff would be generous. There’s a sort of awkwardness to the movement that is aggravating and pulling off the special moves can be quite aggravating, if you don’t quite nail the timing of it you won’t perform the attack, and in particular with the vertically-oriented special moves they had a tendency to somehow attack to the opposite side. In general with the abundance of buttons on the Switch controller this seems like something that could have been removed as a concern completely, or if there was an insistence on it being tied to moves that more time was spent on making them more reliable. The other concern is that as the game progresses some of the zombie types have a tendency to get a bit on the cheap side, but working to survive regardless may be the point and you’ll just need to focus on putting those down first.

Bloody Zombies will represent a few hours of moderate fun for people who enjoy the classic beat-em-up style. Certainly playing with some friends would likely help to enhance the experience but if you’re up for a challenge you can go it alone as well. Just be warned that its controls don’t quite feel as if they’re ready for prime time and once you adapt to how things work you should be able to have some fun with it.

Score: 6

  • Who doesn’t love zombies?
  • A pretty diverse set of enemy types
  • Stage boss battles have a fair amount of variety and challenge
  • The controls are pretty stiff and stilted
  • Special moves are unnecessarily hard to pull off consistently when you need them
  • Some of the zombie attacks tend towards being cheap