I have to confess something before I start this review: I am terrible at puzzle games. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t like them; on the contrary, I love puzzle games. It doesn’t change the fact that I am beyond terrible at them, and usually end up quitting halfway through.
Notice I said ‘usually’. There are a few games that I end up toughing it out, either because the gameplay is so much fun, the puzzles are entertaining, or because the mechanics are so engrossing that I just don’t get frustrated.
Zombie Night Terror is a rare game that is all three.
I know what you’re thinking: “Oh god, not another zombie game. Haven’t we had like… eight million of them by now?”
And you would be right to think that, if this game didn’t abuse the genre like so many others. Unlike many of the zombie games who exploit the popularity of the genre to make some money, Zombie Night Terror does not…at least not in the way you might think.
The premise of this game is simply, you are some sort of demonic, invisible zombie overlord, and you need to lead your zombies into absolute world destruction. Your goal in each and every level, is to kill all humans. Simple enough, but it’s how the game does it that draws you in.
Similar to the old Lemmings games, you are given a set number of zombies per level, and an objective. On top of that, you are given some power-ups to use on your zombies. You can make them explode, make them act as road blocks, make them jump, and a whole host of other fun abilities. You also get the ability to directly infect humans in some levels, turning them into your minions.Every time a zombie kills a human, you get a new zombie and you want to kill as many humans as possible. Easy right?
I managed to beat the first ten levels without too much difficulty, and only needed to restart three levels. Getting the extra bonus objectives were a bit harder, but a couple more replays and I was able to do it without too much frustration. However, it was at the 15th level that I started to struggle. By the 20th level, I was restarting every level multiple times just to beat it without the secret objective, and by the 30th level, I couldn’t beat them at all.
There are 40 levels in this game, and it is to my great shame that I couldn’t beat them all. I tried, oh god how I tried. I’ve spent roughly 20 hours in this game; a game that should only have taken five or six hours of my time instead became a soul-sucking time sink. With each try of the levels I couldn’t beat, I became more and more determined to beat it. After one particularly grueling two-hour session to beat one level, I turned off the game and collapsed on the ground, unable to think and unwilling to do anything but lay there on the ground, huddled in the fetal position.
You know what, though? I don’t regret a single minute of it.
I have played much better games; no doubt about it. I have also played much worse games. I’ve played harder games and easier games. I’ve played almost every single zombie game that has come out on this side of the sun, but until this game, I had never played a game that is so frustratingly fun that I would actually spend two hours restarting one single level, just to beat it.
Once again, I am awful at puzzle games.
I can guarantee you that once I’m done writing this review, I’m going to launch myself back into playing and trying to beat this damn game. Like the zombies in it, it wants my brain, it needs my brain, and I’m more than happy to oblige.
Now, on to the rest of the game.
The story-line itself is pretty simple: there’s some sort of designer drug that’s out there, and it turns people into zombies. That’s about it. Otherwise, though, there is dialogue among the humans and the television news reports. You have, of course, the evil scientist who designed this zombie plague, “Dr Einstein”, as well as some other colorful characters you’ll find in the course of all the levels. In one level, you have some sort of crazy man who is preaching about the end of the world, and in another you have a cannibal who has hidden himself in a secret room with his unlucky victim.
The game has many references to 80’s zombie and sci-fi movies, one of them being the name of the zombie virus itself. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but fans of old zombie movies will be very happy.
In each level you’ll have obstacles to face, whether it be land mines in your path, bridges that break if you have too many zombies on it, humans with guns and bats, or even the environment itself.
With each level, the difficulty increases, whether it’s because a massive group of gun toting gangsters or police are in your way, or because you only start out with just enough zombies to get to a DNA barrel and acquire a new mutation.
One mechanic that makes this game harder as well, and makes me even worse at it, is the existence of DNA points. On each level, you have a certain number of points to spend on your mutations. Each mutation drains your points, and you always need more points. How do you gain more, you ask? By eating humans, finding barrels or, destroying your own zombies. This is what makes this game just so hard for me: resource management.
You need to plan ahead on each level and make sure you have both enough DNA points and enough zombies to get your little minions to where they need to go.
The art style of the game is a Pixel-art, film-noir style. It’s almost the same kind of style as the old Lemmings games, albeit a lot gorier and with beautifully animated and drawn backgrounds. It’s a very satisfying style to play in. The zombies themselves are well animated, as are the faceless humans you devour.
The level variety changes up a lot. Most of the levels try to keep things fresh with new puzzles and new hazards, and some of them… Well I don’t want to spoil too much, but Giant Brain Monster battle.
The soundtrack changes constantly, and each level has an entirely different song. It’s a beautiful mix of classical and electric music. Not only that, but when you start to eat the humans and the music is punctuated by the screams of the dying and the disgusting sounds of flesh being eaten, it just really takes you back to 80’s zombie movies.
If I haven’t convinced you by now to play this game, I don’t think I ever will, but to those I have convinced, enjoy some of the most enjoyable and most frustrating puzzles you will ever experience in a zombie game.
You can buy Zombie Night Terror on Steam for $13.99 Canadian.
Yves Hacault is not a zombie and you should totally let him eat your brain. His view are his own.