I eat a salad for lunch every day of the week. It always has the same components: light ranch, a sprinkle of feta, romaine lettuce, bits of white onion, a few raisins, and seven croutons. Eating the salad has become a ritual. I no longer take any enjoyment from it because I eat it so much.
I’m afraid that videogame zombies are going to become my salad. Over the past few months, I’ve splattered the undead in Left 4 Dead, Call of Duty: World at War, Trapped: Undead Infection, Fallout 3 (coined ghouls, but c’mon), Resident Evil 5, and now, mikagames’ iPhone side-scroller, Zombieville USA. Each game has a different approach, sure, but shredded cheddar isn’t going to change my perception of the mundane salad. I guess we’ll see if this year kills it for me. (Hopefully, it won’t rise again.)
The good news is that I’m still digging what developers are handing out, and Zombieville USA isn’t any exception. I recently spent a ton of time with the title. Hit the break for the review.
Zombieville USA (iPhone)
Released: February 15, 2009
I recently finished playing Resident Evil 5’s campaign mode and noticed something. Survival horror isn’t exactly survival horror anymore. Perhaps Capcom’s marketing machine didn’t pump the clever spin as hard this go-round, but it doesn’t change the fact that the genre has lost a bit of its luster. Bullets are easy to come by in RE5 — especially if you unlock the chaingun, oh boy — and because of that, there’s not so much survival or horror. I can’t say that I’m afraid of slow-moving zombies when I have ten shitloads of ammo in my inventory.
Zombieville USA. reminded me of my Resident Evil musings because the entire game is built upon ammo management and the survival of a badass stuck in the middle of some sort of zombie apocalypse. There’s no horror, but there are plenty of frantic moments and fumbling for guns.
Zombieville is a level-based side-scroller. The point of every level is to make it to the end of the horizontal map with oodles of health and bullets for the subsequent mission. Of course, your progression isn’t that cut and dry: zombies are vying for your brains. As you walk along the screen, the cutesy undead claw their way through the ground, forcing you to stop and shoot. In addition to zombies, houses also dot the landscape. Going into one of these abodes nets you ammunition and money.
It’s a give and take kind of game. Zombies eat bullets, while houses only give you small amounts. Killing zombies, thereby spending precious bullets, gives you money, which you can then use to upgrade your weapons or buy health at the end of every level. Buying weapons gives you the added firepower to kill stronger zombies, as the game scales difficulty according what level you’re in.
In the end, you get a product that ends up being a sexy mixture of survival and money grubbing. I spent a great deal of my time in Zombieville finding that perfect mixture of grinding and looting. The mix is fun and especially satisfying when you find yourself upgrading to the crazier, more spectacular weapons in the game (chainsaws and rocket launchers, oh yeah).
Despite the immediate fun of smoking zombies, there’s a layer of monotony. Levels look the same; in fact, the only variable changed is the position of houses. Zombie models are also on the boring side. Through level 23, I’ve seen only three variations, and really, those are pretty weak as well. They’re just stock green zombies with different coats of paint.
For what it’s worth, the game has some serious style. The art looks like something from The Behemoth (Castle Crashers, Daddy and Me). In addition to cute models, there’s also plenty of gore and cracked heads.
I definitely enjoyed my time with Zombieville USA. The give and take gameplay requires a bit of brainpower, and really, nothing beats shooting zombies. (If you don’t believe me, look at the console releases over the last six months.) However, I can easily see this not being everyone’s cup of tea: the game gets ridiculously hard after a few asset-recycled levels. Check out the demo if you’re interested.
Score: 7.0 — Good