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All Zombies Must Die! Review

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On 01/16/2012 at 12:00 PM by Julian Titus

These zombies ate my neighbors, so now they all need to die.

If you have a friend or three available for local co-op, you can add a star to my score. But if you're going it alone, keep in mind you're going to have a rough time.

Until Lucasarts does something with their cult classic Zombies Ate My Neighbors, this is the true spiritual successor to the classic SNES/Genesis multiplayer zombie killing simulator. From the overhead perspective to the cartoony visuals and wacky weapons, this game brought warm, fuzzy memories to someone that spent hours with Zombies Ate My Neighbors. With weapon crafting, RPG stat building, and four player co-op, this is the game I would have wanted had the series continued past Ghoul Patrol.

At its core, this is a twin stick shooter played from an overhead perspective. The game is split into different small zones where the undead rise and try to do what they do best. You’ll do whatever you can to survive by picking up excellent weapons of zombie destruction like machine guns, cricket bats, and that staple of brain-splattering, shotguns. If you run out of ammo and don’t see any nearby, you can resort to your fists, but it’s not recommended.

To exit each zone, you’ll have to get by the containment barriers: sentient robotic gates that were installed to keep the outbreak from getting out of hand. To appease these freedom blockers, you’ll need to perform one of a number of mini quests. These can range from something as simple as “Kill 15 zombies” to something more complicated, like “Kill 30 flaming zombies with the cricket bat.” Prevail over these tasks and you’ll not only gain access to the next area, but you’ll get a bonus of experience points. Get enough XP to level up and you’ll get 5 stat points to customize each character’s basic skills, like weapon damage and health.

Where All Zombies Must Die stumbles a little is when it deviates from the formula of the games it tries to emulate. It’s not level-based like Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Once you’ve seen the 10 or so areas you’ve seen the entire game, and you’ll simply be revisiting them over and over, completing repetitive quests to move between them. It’s also not a simple score-based twin stick shooter. Aiming needs to be surprisingly accurate to succeed, and ammo runs out far too quickly. That works for a survival-based game like Resident Evil or Left 4 Dead where ammo management is a core focal point, but it doesn’t fit in a title that seems to want to be a fun party game.

All Zombies Must Die feels like it was intended to be played with a group, and I can see how that would make this game way more fun. The four unique player characters each have a weapon that does specific status effects to zombies, and many of the quest requirements ask for multiple status effects. Not only are these quests required for progression, but you’ll need to kill certain types of zombies to farm crafting materials which are used to make new weapons. I’m sure that the game was designed with the intention of multiple players going into a zone and being able to create these different status effects as a team, but playing by myself and trying to complete these tasks was a real pain. I’d have to find a specific point in the environment to cause, say, a radioactive effect on a zombie, and then use my torch to set the zombie on fire before killing it. Not an easy task when you’re getting swarmed by the undead.

Another problem with the multiplayer focus on this game is that things don’t seem to be properly balanced for single player. The game starts out easy enough, but get a few levels in and the zombies get tougher, faster, and more aggressive; plus they multiply like rabbits. It’s easy to get cornered or stuck on level geometry, which makes the problem even worse. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as dying two inches from a health pickup that you couldn’t reach. I can see how this wouldn’t be a problem with another player or three, but I felt like the number of enemies I was being pitted against was intended for a full group, and not scaled down to a single-player level.

All Zombies Must Die is local co-op only, and I don’t own a second Dual Shock controller. I eventually found myself in an actual fail state where I couldn’t proceed any further. The quest I needed to complete was in a zone that felt pretty much completely broken in terms of balancing, and after many, many attempts I had to admit defeat. I consider myself to be pretty quick with games like this but too many elements seemed stacked against me.

It’s too bad, because for the 80% or so of the game I completed, I was having a really good time. All Zombies Must Die has some legitimately funny dialogue that breaks the 4th wall constantly. Jack, the main character, thinks he’s in a video game, and will point out things like the crafting mechanic and quest-giving gates as evidence to this fact. It makes for a charming little game, and the art design is top-notch. There’s a lot of imagination at play here, and far more depth than I would expect from what boils down to a twin stick shooter. With a rowdy group of fellow zombie killers I could see this as being an addicting party game.  All Zombies Must Die is a witty, inventive, and fun game. But for the solo gamer, there’s a lot of frustration to go along with the fun.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Nick DiMola Director

01/16/2012 at 08:28 PM

No online co-op? Seriously? What were they thinking? That's a serious misstep in this day and age. Sounds like a game I might consider if the setting is right, but these days, it just doesn't happen like it did back in the day when I was a kid.

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