Preview: Burn Zombie Burn!

You know, I was going to come out and say it, but I think we’ve reached a saturation point for zombie games. Yet, and I strongly qualify that “yet,” like zombies themselves, the market never seems to die. So it’s with not much surprise that the PlayStation Network is receiving Burn Zombie Burn! later this month, a decidedly light-hearted and arcade-styled take on making the undead dead.

While I might be a little bit burned out of killing zombies, I knew I had to give it a chance. I mean, if the game is going to have zombies, at least its varieties are of a more charming type than say, the boomers from Left 4 Dead. I mean, there are zombie ballerinas. And you light them on fire. And then they puree them with a lawn mower. That’s gotta be a selling point for someone, right?

So I settled myself in next to Jim Mummery, Creative Director of the game with doublesix, the developer of the game, grabbed a PlayStation 3 controller, and preceded to incinerate, mutilate, smash, and altogether destroy thousands of zombies.

Hit the jump for my impressions.

Burn Zombie Burn! is a shooter in the same vein as Robotron and Geometry Wars, which makes sense as the dev team — doublesix — contributed to Geometry Wars: Galaxies for the DS. In Burn Zombie Burn!, you run around as meathead hero Bruce,  shooting zombies with an assortment of guns, smacking them with bats (both baseball and cricket varieties), or cutting them down with lawn mowers and chainsaws. There’s even a dance ray which sweeps out and causes the zombies to break out in dancing that would make the gloved-one himself proud. Also, within the six levels, you have opportunities to use level-specific super moves to send out, like zombie-slowing rain or a holy laser beam that fries the shambling hoard.

For a game called Burn Zombie Burn!, you’d think fire would have to be involve, right? Well, the burning element is actually the most important part of the game, as you use your flamethrower to torch zombies. Ignited zombies act as a score multiplier, so you want to torch as many of the undead douchbags as possible, then shoot, smack or slice them up before they burn up. With up to 120 zombies on screen and 10 weapons, the combos can get pretty high.

The game offers three gameplay modes, any of which can be played with two-player co-op or versus. There’s Survive the Zombies, which is just a mode where you run around trying to kill as many zombies without dying. Then’s there’s Beat the Clock, where you run around killing zombies and gaining more time before your game time ends. Finally, there’s Protect Daisy, where Bruce’s white-trash girlfriend sits in a car while you protect her for as long as possible.

If the modes sound somewhat simple, that’s because they are. But, if a game like Geometry Wars shows us, simple is often just fine.

To mix things up, there are Challenges, a Tutorial mode, and Multiplayer. Tutorial and Multiplayer explain themselves, but Challenges offers a little more to do. One mode asks you to kick a zombie head around then shoot for a massive explosion. Another challenge, Lawn of the Dead, asks you to kill zombies with the lawn mower, which is eternally satisfying, with giblets and loads of cartoonish gore.

It’s that cartoonish aesthetic that is possibly most fun about the game. With hundreds of stupid-faced zombies, ballerina zombies, masked zombies and all sorts of inane undead, Burn Zombie Burn! actually reminds me of something from Animaniacs. That in itself is a big plus. And if you don’t like how the game looks, it has some neat filters that change how the game looks. Zombie vision, for example, reduces the game to shades of black, white and red.

Interestingly, although the game is a lot like Robotron, it is not a twin-stick shooter. Bruce only shoots in one direction — straight ahead. That means you have to face directly toward the zombies. While not necessarily the end of the world, it means that all four of the PS3’s trigger buttons have to be used. L1 and L2 for lock-on or strafe, and R1 and R2 for main fire and flamethrower. This takes a little getting used to, but it didn’t stop me from racking up some high scores, so maybe the lack of twin-stick won’t be a problem when the game releases later this month.

Ultimately, I enjoyed what I played. Although I still stand by the fact that there are a lot of zombie games out right now, Burn Zombie Burn! has a fun look to it and a good sense of humor. The burning mechanic is actually pretty satisfying, and I would certainly be interested to play the game some more. However, the lack of modes is somewhat a bummer, and two player-only multiplayer is a bit limiting. Hopefully for doublesix, this won’t be a dealbreaker for everybody.

Burn Zombie Burn! is coming to PSN on March 26 for $9.99.

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Ben Perlee
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