REVIEW / Over 9000 Zombies (PC)

 

It’s somewhat fitting, given my last game review, that I’m taking a look at Over 9000 Zombies.  The title references the classic line from Dragon Ball Z, but the game itself has nothing to do with my new favorite anime. Instead, it’s almost like the zeitgeist of indie games in one title.  It represents the features present in so many indie games that it almost seems like that was the intent.  It also feels all too familiar, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t any new ideas present.

 

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At its core, Over 9000 Zombies is a twin stick shooter.  Your enemies are, of course, zombies.  The game supports up to 4 players locally or 2 online.  The zombies come out in waves, and at the start, all you have is a handgun.  As you rack up kills, you unlock new weapons, and what you unlock next depends on which weapons you use.  This weapon progression system is unique, though I’m not sure exactly how much it adds to the game.  Fortunately, you won’t need to worry about ammo, because you never run out.  When the screen is filled with zombies, that’s a good thing.

 

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Graphically, Over 9000 Zombies goes for a retro feel.  The backgrounds and characters could probably best be described as 16-bit, though I don’t think the developers were going for anything so specific. In contrast to the simple sprites, there are some very cool light and shadow effects to make things feel more modern.  Considering the saturation of retro-looking indie games out there, this is a nice touch.  But frankly, zombies and retro graphics have been done to death, and there is a surprising variety of indie games that reference memes. Any newer game has to do something to set itself apart.

Fortunately, this title does have something else up its sleeve.  In addition to health and power ups, zombies in the game will drop scrap metal.  With enough of these materials, players can build various turrets and barriers.  This sort of crafting has been fairly common in indie games since Minecraft made the scene, but I’ve never seen it used like this.  It definitely adds a new dimension to what would have been a very boring game.  I wish there were more options for what to build, but given the kind of game this is, there’s not much time to see your choices anyway.  There are still leftover zombies around between waves, so you have to try and build things properly while there are enemies trying to kill you.

 

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Another nifty feature is the level editor.  There are only a few stages built in, so custom maps bring in some much needed variety.  You can also download other players’ work, if you’re less confident in your skills.  There’s only so much you can do with it, of course, so you won’t be able to get too far beyond what the game has to begin with.

Even with these features, Over 9000 Zombies felt boring at first.  Shoot zombies, maybe build something, shoot more zombies.  It definitely got better when I played with a few friends, though.  The zombies are much more manageable that way, for one, giving you more time to craft.  You can also strategize with the other players, so your assault is more directed.  In larger maps, though, this presents a problem.  The “camera” won’t zoom out, so if the players start getting too far apart, the game will stop you.  This really messes things up, especially when someone is trying to build barriers.  Additionally, the game keeps going until all of the players are dead at the same time, so each round lasts a while with very little change.  It’s fun with other players, but it isn’t something you’ll play for long stretches.

 

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Unfortunately, for all that this game has going for it, I can’t help but feel like other games have) done this better.  Throughout my time playing it, the game reminded me a lot of a game I played more than 5 years ago: Ska Studios’ I Made a Game With Zombies in It.  That was also a zombie themed twin stick shooter, and it was also aimed at the meme-loving crowd.  Even back then, it made jokes about the oversaturation of games like these.  But that game also had personality and variety going for it; it was funny and self deprecating.  There was much more variety to the enemies, and even though the stages were wide open, they changed as the game progressed.  In short, while it lacked some of the features found in Over 9000 Zombies, I still believe it was a better example of the genre.  When you consider that the games go for the same price, and that the better one was released in 2009, it doesn’t look good for Over 9000 Zombies.

That’s just one perspective, though.  For some, this game is definitely worth it.  If you really like the idea of customizing the play field, you’ll definitely want to try Over 9000 Zombies.  If the idea of teaming up with some friends locally appeals to you, you will also enjoy this game.  Still, I can’t help but feel that this game would have made more sense a few years ago, when twin stick shooters and zombies were all the rage.  It feels like a me-too game that arrived after the party was already winding down.  For $5 I’d say it’s worth trying if it appeals to you, but it doesn’t add enough to be worth picking up if you aren’t sure.

 

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