Wednesday, March 7

Review: I, Zombie [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Who doesn’t love a good zombie game? They’re absolutely everywhere and are harder to kill than cockroaches, yet there are a load of games where we get to do precisely that, decimating their ranks before they multiply and conquer the world. But, what if instead of killing them for once you got to play as one and your goal was to infect people and then use them to do your bidding, building up a mini zombie army? While the scale never gets terribly grand that is pretty well your goal in the action puzzler I, Zombie.


The goal in the game is to infect everyone in the level. Starting with plain civilians of various types they’re pretty easy prey, you just need to be ready for them to run away. Once you infect someone you then have the ability to take control of them, essentially telling them to attack, stop, or follow. Things get a bit tougher when there are soldiers about, once a zombie takes a hit their speed goes way down. This means ambushes need to be planned carefully to ensure you can infect them before they manage to shoot you or your minions to pieces. Thankfully you all heal pretty quickly, so a key component to the game is often showing care to control someone new and then pull your troops back to regroup and be ready to attack again at full health.

What’s great is that aside from a change in venue to snowy maps (complete with snowmen you can hide behind) there are two variant level types that make things a bit more interesting. The first is a timed level where a scientist needs to be stopped before he’s able to concoct and anti-zombie weapon but he’s covered by some heavy duty soldiers who shoot first, ask questions later, and can’t be turned. This forces you to be more stealthy than usual and in particular you need to be in tune with viewing distances so you can carefully sneak between patrol routes to get to the scientist. The second, my favorite, starts with you somewhat pinned in but there’s a zombie on the other side of the map that you’re able to control. By carefully telling them when to move or stop you can then slowly amass your mini zombie army while away from the action, and then finally mount your attack on both sides once they’re ready.


One downside is that, aside from replaying levels to execute them better and get 3 stars for them all, once you conquer all of the game’s 30 levels the base experience is done. To help compensate the great news is that the game includes a level editor and has integration for playing maps contributed by other people or making them yourself. Depending on the degree of interest from everyone else playing the game this may or may not be a great boon but since this sort of functionality isn’t typically included in indie titles it is exciting. As for the level editor itself it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Most notably the touchscreen isn’t supported, though editing using the traditional controls functions well enough once you get the hang of everything. In particular setting up walking routes for your people is a little wonky when you first try to get the hang of it but it does work. Once concern I’ve already shared with the developer is that every once in awhile something will begin to go wrong and some editing functions will stop working. If this happens a quick save, shutting the game down, and then returning tends to do the trick but hopefully it is addressed. Once you think your level is ready for prime time after play testing it you just need to make it public and then others can give it a spin. When you check out other peoples’ levels be sure to rate them up or down as you feel is appropriate so the best will manage to make their way to the top. Be sure to look for some from MAMEiac, I think mine are at least fun and may experiment more.

All said while the number of levels is a bit on the short side I, Zombie has quite a lot to like about it, especially at it’s very budget-friendly price. The mix of action, puzzle, and strategy elements is novel and can be challenging in places. While I wish there were more of the levels where you remotely control your zombies to bring your army towards you I found their inclusion to be a particular stroke of genius and am hoping people are inspired to make more of them. Assuming the community at least modestly supports the game with new levels I think it is a great value and well worth giving a look.


Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • A clever mix of action, puzzle, and strategy games all in one
  • The included level editor, complete with online sharing, opens the game up for much more content
  • Variant level types show how the game mechanics have potential for even more creativity
  • A very budget-friendly price

Cons:
  • Only ships with 30 levels
  • The level editor has some quirks that can require a save and game restart to resolve
  • Hard to say whether community support will lead to worthwhile levels or not