Novelty names – whether it’s a film, band or video game – are usually a bad sign. It’s often the last desperate act of a publisher to ensure their mediocre product gets noticed in a crowded marketplace, although it can often be a surprisingly successful tactic. The use of zombies is also often an indicator that the game won’t be particularly inspired, but despite that I approached ‘Over 9000 Zombies!’ with reasonably high hopes – and after all, ‘Zombies Ate My Neighbors’ from the SNES/Mega Drive era turned out to be a classic.
In this case the name is (presumably) inspired by the Dragonball Z Internet meme, although it is quite appropriate given the gameplay – a top-down twin-stick shooter where you battle to survive as long as possible against waves of thousands of zombies. And I do mean thousands – you’ll likely have topped 9000 kills within your first hour of play.
All this action is presented with retro 2D graphics, similar in style to Cannon Fodder or Sensible Soccer, so the hordes of the undead won’t prove too taxing for even the most modest of PCs. The pixelated environment and enemies obviously don’t look too impressive but they have an old-school charm, especially when equally pixelated explosions start splattering zombie blood everywhere. The one graphical flourish in place is the 2D shadow engine which really starts to kick in as the day-night cycle kicks in – although to be honest it’s a bit distracting and over-used. The audio effects are also pretty underwhelming (the guns make particularly odd noises), although this is likely a deliberate attempt to match the retro graphics. The background music was much more satisfying, as the game is soundtracked by a pulsing rock-industrial score with some 1980s synth thrown in for good measure.
In terms of gameplay there is nothing too surprising. You can move your character around to try and dodge the advancing zombies while firing our bullets and grenades in all directions with the left and right mouse buttons (another similarity to Cannon Fodder). Medikits and extra weapons are periodically dropped by slaughtered foes, along with scrap metal which can be collected to build barricades and turrets. Building turrets becomes essential pretty quickly and gives the game an extra dimension, introducing elements of a tower defense game as you have to choose wisely where to build and make sure you monitor and repair your defenses.
Unfortunately this renders the large maps fairly redundant – as you can only have 6 turrets at a time you’ll always find yourself constructing a makeshift base and then sitting tight, with no incentive to explore. Another issue I had is with the spawning of the enemies. They claw themselves out of the ground in seconds and appear everywhere – including all around you. I found this pretty irritating, and it was yet another reason not to explore the maps as you were likely to find yourself running right into a newly spawned zombie.
As with games of this type there is a danger of repetition and to address this there is a large selection of weapons to collect, as well as several different turret types. However while playing you’ll probably find yourself only ever using a handful of the weapons on offer, and it’s difficult to experiment too much with turrets as the constant onslaught means you only get a brief respite between waves to set up your defenses. The diversity in enemy types is a bit more interesting as along with standard strong/fast variants they can get a bit more interesting as you are attacked by flying eyeballs or zombies that shoot fireballs. My biggest disappointment however is the vaunted ‘Swarm Intelligence’ engine that is supposed to drive the zombie horde – as far as I can tell it’s just a case that they spawn and make a bee-line straight for you.
It’s worth noting that this is still an early access Steam release so there is still scope for further improvements. This is certainly needed in the interface which is especially clunky both to look at and when trying to build defenses. There are also promises to expand on fledgling co-op multiplayer mode, although I can’t see this adding to the experience significantly. I may come across as a bit harsh in my criticism bearing in mind the early access status, but as it is there are too many flaws that need improving in it’s current state. Over 9000 Zombies! is still enjoyable for short bursts of play but there isn’t really enough to keep you engaged for longer.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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