Review: Alien Zombie Megadeath (Sony PS3)

Alien Zombie Megadeath
Publisher: Pompom Games
Developer: Pompom Games
Genre: Shoot-Em-Up
Release Date: 06/21/2011

I’ve been dying for a new game to review. I’ve recently become just about as broke as you can be, so I haven’t been able to buy any new games in a few months. While this has been great in terms of catching up on the games I already own, it hasn’t been so great in terms of putting up new reviews for all of you to enjoy. So, when I finally saw a game I could handle pop up, I jumped at the chance. That’s how I ended up with Alien Zombie Megadeath.

You’ve got to admit, that is a title that pops out at you. What do aliens have to do with zombies, or a classic heavy metal band? Sure, Megadeath did put out a song about a secret government facility that was housing aliens called “Hanger 18,” but surely that wouldn’t cut it for a game besides your typical Rock Band/Guitar Hero fodder.

I know. I know. No one is going to confuse this game as some sort of Megadeath collaboration. It’s just that so many people out there are making jokes about it that I had to join in. We now return you to your regularly scheduled review.

Anyway, this game is actually a sequel to a PSP mini which has the same title minus the “mega”. I guess upgrading from a Mini to a full fledged PSN title, adding a couple of modes, and upgrading to HD graphics gives you the right to add “mega” to your name.

Is this a great new title for PSN users, or is this one game that should have stayed in Mini-hell where it belonged?

Modes

The plot of this game amounts to a couple of paragraphs during the introduction stage. You play as a space dude. He’s on a ship by himself in the middle of outer space. He gets attacked by aliens who are also zombies. This is bad. You take control of the space dude and blast every alien zombie in sight in order to survive. There isn’t anything here besides a setup, but there really didn’t need to be. Honestly, we could have dealt without the intro, but whatever. It is what it is.

The main mode is the single player. Here there are seventy different levels for you to conquer, each with different objectives, layouts, and enemies. They come is two primary types: campaign missions and bonus missions. Levels that are part of the campaign are colored blue and are the bulk of the experience. You have a few different level types to mess around with. Mission varieties include killing everything, surviving an onslaught of obstacles, rescuing space babies, defusing bombs, and taking out bosses. The controls always work the same, but these do manage to play different.

Instead of unlocking levels by beating the prior one, you instead need to earn a certain amount of medals. Each level has four obtainable medals that require you to perform specific actions. Some have you kill a certain number of a specific enemy, collect a certain number of crystals, score a high number of point, etc. Here is the biggest issue with the game. You’re going to have to replay missions a lot in order to get medals, especially when you start reach the end of the campaign. For starters, there is one medal type that requires you to destroy UFOs. However, UFOs don’t even show up until you unlock them in level nineteen! In order to unlock them, you need to earn a specific medal there! It gets more annoying when you account for the high score medals. I haven’t been able to earn a single one of them, and I don’t know why. I’ve killed all the enemies, collected every crystal that showed up, and blasted every UFO out of the sky, and done it all as best as I can, and the score doesn’t even get close to what it wants. I don’t get it at all. Worst of all, when you replay these levels to get medals, you’re forced to play them differently. If you’re going for a UFO medal, you’ll do inane things like let space babies get eaten, and not care if a bomb goes off. It goes against the very idea of the game, yet you have to do it over and again simply in order to unlock the next story mission. The whole thing is stupid.

Beyond the story missions, you have bonus missions that also must be unlocked by collecting medals. These are all survival missions, where there is no end and you need merely stay alive/rescue babies/defuse bombs for as long as possible. These aren’t very fun, but you’ll have to play them to earn those precious medals.

There is a multiplayer element to the game that features both online and offline play. It allows for two players to play cooperatively in survival missions. The players have shared lives, and there is no end, so it’s all about scoring. If you’re into that sort of thing, then you might enjoy it. However, I couldn’t find anyone online to play with. That could be because the game just came out and not many people have it yet, but the fact remains.

The basic setup of the game would be pretty good if not for the insane amount of replaying you have to do in order to proceed with the campaign. I get that they want players to earn medals and master the game, but forcing you to go back and replay earlier levels is NEVER a good idea. It halts the game and turns it into a grind. That just isn’t fun.

Graphics

AZM keeps things bright and colorful, and for that it is to be commended. The game quite literally explodes with color. Enemies are very simple, usually consisting of an amorphous blob with an eye. Sometimes the blob has a bit more shape. In terms of character design, the game falls flat on its face, but the color goes a long way to make up for it. In the heat of battle, with you blasting your way through dozens of these suckers, it can look pretty cool.

The worst looking aspect of the game is probably the spaceman himself, especially if you don’t customize his costume. With his white suit and dull look, he just doesn’t fit the rest of the game. If you do change things up by customizing colors and whatnot, he does look better, but he is still outclassed by his bright colored would be murderers.

The game keeps a bright, simple look that may not be winning any awards, but is pretty enough to look at while keeping a retro theme. It fits the game like a glove, which is the most important thing.

Audio

So when I sat down to write this, I couldn’t remember anything about the music. All I could remember were the thousands of laser blasts, the death cries of alien zombies, and the sound it makes when you take a hit. I literally had to turn the game back on and listen careful to find the music. The reason for this is because the music is as nondescript as it gets. It’s the background music for when you’re making background music. The beats are simple, repetitive, and they all sound alike. It isn’t what I’d call bad, but it is so nondescript that anyone can be forgiven for not realizing its even there.

The rest of the audio is comprised of the various blasts, explosions, and screams I mentioned earlier. These sound OK, but get extremely repetitive as you play. Every alien zombie makes pretty much the same death knell, one laser blast sound like any other, etc. The only reason to even bother keeping the sound on is that an off-screen death scream will let you know you’ve killed an enemy even if you can’t see them. This becomes important later on as you replay levels and memorize spawning patterns. Overall, the audio package is about as mediocre as it gets. Thankfully, it never becomes an earsore.

Gameplay

So this game is pretty much as old school as it gets. You jump around a few parallel horizontal platforms and shoot things that come at you in massive numbers. The controls are simple as well. The analog stick moves you either left or right as well as jumps up or down. You can then shoot left or right by pressing the shoulder buttons. Lastly, you can grab certain objects (bombs and babies) and carry them around at the sacrifice of being able to shoot or move with any sort of speed. There are alternative configurations as well that utilize the d-pad and the face buttons. You can use any combination you want, depending on your preferences.

What would a shooter be without power-ups? While this game doesn’t exactly wow with its power-ups, they do come in handy. You can a spread shot that fires in three directions, a laser that kills everything in one hit (apart from bosses), and homing missiles. These all run on a timer, so their use needs to be planned or they’ll end up being wasted between waves.

Enemies come in a multitude of forms. Basic alien zombies waddle at you slowly and can hop between platform, bats fly at you like homing missiles who haven’t had their coffee yet, shielded enemies can only go back and forth but are protected on one side, and bosses tend to shoot out weaker enemies when struck. You also have turrets, spiked energy chains, lasers, and all kinds of obstacles to worry about. The game certainly keeps you on your toes and introduces new enemies very often.

The game also mixes up the mission objectives frequently. Blasting your way through a horde is challenging enough, but when you throw in a ticking time bomb that costs you a life if it goes off, things get pretty hectic. Seeing as you can’t shoot when holding an object, this requires quick reflexes and planning. Each differing objective plays differently as a result.

Overall, I enjoyed the gameplay. The controls are simple and easy to use. The variety and voracity of the enemies keeps you on your toes. It’s a nice old school type game with enough going on to keep it from feeling too outdated.

Replayability

There are seventy levels to plow through in the game. About forty of these are “story” missions, while the rest are bonus survival types. Most levels can be beaten in a minute or two, meaning that you move through the game quickly. A skilled player could probably beat every level in a couple of hours.

To combat this, the developers added the medal system, as you may remember from earlier. In order to unlock levels, you need to earn medals, including medals that can’t be unlocked until about halfway through the campaign. In other words, you need to replay through early levels in order to get medals. If you fail, you have to try again. Otherwise, you can’t beat the game.

As bad as this is, each level is static. By that, I mean that enemies always spawn in the same spots in the same order at the same time. It gets really boring when you’re playing a level over and over again in order to reach some high score. Towards the end of the game, I’d beat a level, find out I needed a bunch of medals to unlock the rest, and spend fifteen minutes to half an hour simply unlocking the next one. Then, when I beat the new level, I’d have to repeat the process. This is the kind of cheap game lengthening crap that pisses people off. There was no reason for it.

Balance

You get three strikes and you’re out. Knowing that, some of the levels get pretty nuts. Early levels are pretty easy. Enemies are slow and predictable. Get at the end, however, and huge numbers of them will come swarming at you, usually accompanied by a few tough guys who distract you long enough for you to get caught. Add in the dozens of projectiles and obstacles coming at you and the fact that you can only move in four directions, and things get pretty hairy.

I wouldn’t really call the game unfair in any way, however. Since levels are always the same, it is up to the player to figure out the best way to get past them. If you keep getting caught by the same enemy, it is because of your own failure, not because the game is cheap or too hard. Although, it can certainly get frustrating at times.

What the game boils down to is skill, reflexes, and pattern memorization. If you have a problem with one of those, this game is going to present some problems. The retro feel is carried over to the difficulty. Remember that when considering this game.

Originality

Well, this is a upgraded port of a previous PSP Mini. That Mini wasn’t particularly original either. It felt like a more restrictive version of Defender, albeit with some power-ups. How many different shooters have there been in the past decades? Too many too count.

That being said, I do give the game credit for adding so much to the formula. This game added multiple level types, a new level based structure, and multiplayer. With added improvements to the graphics, that is a pretty big step up for a second game in a new franchise.

Addictiveness

Whether or not you’re addicted to this game really depends on the kind of person you are. It is the kind of game you can probably play for only a few minutes before you get bored, but for some players, the fun can last for hours at a time. I’ll admit that at first, I was willing to sit and play the game for relatively long stretches.

Once again, however, the stupid medal system rears its ugly head. Unless you’re that special kind of person who loves to play things repeatedly to get a hundred percent completion, the game will drag on you just as you start to reach the home stretch. At this point, I’m trying to unlock the last few bonus levels, and I just don’t have it in me to grind for medals. Screw that. I have too many other games to play.

Appeal Factor

There’s a reason the first game was a Mini. It’s the kind of game the platform was created for. It was short, simple, and easy to pick up and play. The developer took a risk when they tried to upgrade the game and sell it as a full PSN title.

In my opinion, they pulled it off, but barely.

The game doesn’t feel nearly as fully featured when you compare it to something like Wipeout HD, but I’ve definitely seen worse. At the very least, the price hasn’t gone up too much and is still under ten dollars. That makes it pretty decently priced for what it is.

This is the kind of game you’re likely to pick up every once in a while when you want to goof off. The existence of multiplayer, shallow as it is, will definitely give would be buyers a reason to look at this game. (If you can find anyone online that is.)

Overall, the game has just enough going for it to stick out.

Miscellaneous

There’s only one thing that I can think of to write about for this section, and that would be the leader-boards

This game is yet another PSN title with online leader-boards The interesting things is that instead of individual level scores, you’re combined score is whats posted. As an early player, I was amused to see myself in the top twenty for awhile, simply because I had played through most of the story at that point. That kind of thing doesn’t happen for me, as I rarely play a game enough to become elite at it. Either way, it isn’t particularly interesting or anything, but it is something different.

Let’s get down to the scores.

The Scores
Modes: Below Average
Graphics: Enjoyable
Audio: Mediocre
Gameplay: Enjoyable
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Good
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Below Average
Appeal Factor: Decent
Miscellaneous: Mediocre
Final Score: Mediocre Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

If you like old school shooters where jumping skills are more important that flying skills, you’ll probably find plenty to love about this game. As a relatively cheap game for the PSN, this game has a lot going for it. If it weren’t for the inane progression system, I’d probably be giving it a much higher score. If you look at the sections for Modes, Replayability, and Addictiveness, that one feature really killed the score. Hopefully the next time Pompom makes a game, they keep that kind of thing out and let players enjoy their games.

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