2012 (Microsoft Xbox 360)
Publisher: Gliese Games
Developer: Gliese Games
Genre: Action & Adventure
Release Date: 8/16/2012
It’s December 21, 2012, and Frank Mors (that’s you) has found himself in the midst of an apocalypse–one that includes zombies. Being the only resident Mayan expert (or at least the only one willing to venture outside the haven of the nearby town, Arenal, Guatemala), it falls on Frank to save the day when several people go missing. It turns out, of course, that they’re being used as sacrifices in the surrounding temples. Other than that, there really isn’t a story, with the exception of someone asking you to take identification off of some of the dead bodies, which really doesn’t seem to amount to anything. I don’t mind the linear story that much, as it doesn’t get in the way of the actual gameplay. Your goal is to traverse the surprisingly large map (it’s easy to get lost as much of the territory looks the same) and find clues as to why these sacrifices are happening. The story itself is pretty interesting, and I liked that there was a journal that allowed you to see Frank’s thoughts as you complete the game. It was also helpful to remind you of what the next goal is, though the journal itself is not detailed enough for what you would expect from a world-renowned archaeologist. If you’re not interested in the story, there is also an arcade mode that works just fine for getting your zombie fix.
Like many indie games coming out recently, the graphics and game style are reminiscent of top-down games like StarTropics or the original Legend of Zelda games. The style is pretty basic, but still manages to be appealing to the eye and colorful enough that you know what’s going on. The NPCs are perhaps not diverse enough so that they stand out from one another, but you don’t really talk to too many of them for any extended period of time, so in the end it’s not particularly important, except for the rare occasion where you need to find someone specific to talk to, especially since their name doesn’t show up in the conversation unless they’re important at that point in time. The music and sounds that accompany the game might be the best feature of 2012, as the zombie groans are amusing and the music is quite fitting for the situations Frank finds himself in. The music has an ancient, mystic feeling to it and just suits the feel of the game.
While you have an arsenal of weapons available to you, from a stick to a shotgun, you can only attack in one direction, which makes for some really frustrating situations when you’re literally surrounded by zombies. When that happens, it’s probably best to just wait to die and reload. This is actually probably the most frustrating part of the game. The only difference between the weapons is how much damage they do per hit and how fast they are. The shotgun doesn’t do what I was hoping it would do and spread out like an actual shotgun would and there are no weapons that I found that hit in multiple directions (like you might expect a 2×4 to do). This made saving up for weapons and switching between them pointless; you will probably do just as well with a pistol as you do a 2×4 with the exception of the advantage of having a distance advantage with the pistol. And as always, save often.
It’s also frustrating that you don’t actually pause the game when you open your inventory, so if you really need to use a healing potion, you’re going to have to put it on the quick selection menu (the d-pad), and if you’re being swarmed by zombies there really isn’t a point in healing anyway because you’re probably going to die. The merchant in the town does heal you for free before you look at his wares, so that’s always an option if you’re low on gold. You can only save when zombies are not on the screen, which makes sense because it would suck to open the game and get swarmed by them. This is only a problem in dungeons, however, as there is enough space on the map for you to rarely run into zombies, even though they increase in numbers as you complete the temples. That said, an autosave feature would have been nice for the amount of times you may die while trying to figure out puzzles or if you aren’t paying attention while walking around. It’s a lot easier to die indoors than outdoors in this game, as the zombies are incredibly easy to outrun and there’s so much open space that maneuvering isn’t really an issue.
Each temple (there are five) has puzzles inside of it. Many are quite clever, but I have to admit I got stuck in the third temple and haven’t found a way to get help, since there are no walkthroughs, guides or Let’s Plays (I would have been surprised if there were any, considering it’s an indie game) and no one responded when I tweeted the developers. I don’t know if it’s the fault of the developer, as there are no hints in that room like there are in others, or just me being a bit thick. Regardless, I can see this game taking most people anywhere from 2-5 hours to fully beat, depending on how bad you were at saving often or how well you complete the puzzles. I’m not sure how inclined I am to pick up the game again at a later point in time, but I don’t regret putting time into it in the first place, even though parts were extremely frustrating.
For the life of me, I don’t understand why the community voted it a 3/3 on mature content or sex, as there really didn’t seem to be any in the game. More women hit on you than I think is necessary (to the point where, as Mark put it when I mentioned it to him, it was like the developers were living out a fantasy), but I didn’t see anything that was overtly sexual in nature or especially mature. The only thing I could see anyone who is overly sensitive taking offense to is the blood that’s everywhere, but it’s not exactly detailed, considering the way in which the game is visually designed. It does have a 3/3 on violence, which makes sense, as the game is about killing zombies. I doubt anyone is surprised.
The best word I can think for this game is rough. The game feels like a rough draft, and while parts of it–like the puzzles and story–are expertly crafted, or at the very least adequate, other parts–like the combat and interface–need to be honed and improved upon. It’s available on XBLA and as a Desura download, and I am cautiously optimistic that Gliese Games will have more to show us in the future. The team doesn’t need any help with graphics or sound, as the game is appealing in both a visual and auditory fashion and the puzzles are worth their time figuring them out, but their main weakness–at least with this game–is the interface and battle design.
Short Attention Span Summary
For a game that’s 240 MS points (about $3), this isn’t a bad deal. There are better independent zombie games out there, but this one doesn’t do too badly. It’s reminiscent of StarTropics or the original Legend of Zelda games in both good and bad games. I’m not sure how the community rated it 3/3 on sex or mature content, but I didn’t get to finish the game because I got stuck in one of the temples 3/5ths of the way through the game, so maybe there’s an elaborate sex scene somewhere after I got stuck. (That was a joke.) The game is a good experience as far as visuals and sound go, and the puzzles are worth their time, but the game interface and battle designs could use some help. If you’re looking for a cheap time waster, this is a decent candidate.