Review: Zombie Blaster (Nintendo DSiWare)

Zombie Blaster
Publisher: Enjoy Gaming
Developer: 7Raven Studios
Genre: Rail Shooter
Release Date: 10/10/2013

If you could point to one “fad” that seems to have taken over nearly every form of media, it would have to be zombies. Video games and movies are the most prevalent, but there are certainly books on the subject as well as, uh, Thriller. And like every sub-genre, there are plenty of hits and misses to go around. Video games in particular have given us Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead and Dead Space which began life in this console generation alone. Portable consoles haven’t really had the same success in introducing new zombie IP’s. Zombie Blaster hopes to change all that, proving it’s got the chops to hang with the big dogs and start a similar trend on the DS/3DS.

It doesn’t.

The plot of Zombie Blaster casts you in the role of two teenagers trying to survive the impending zombie apocalypse (in their Dukes of Hazzard car). They stop for gas at a remote station, only to realize the attendant has been infected, and he isn’t the only one. After taking the car as far as it will go, they continue on foot with the alarming amount of weaponry they had stashed in the glove compartment (who’s selling to these kids?) It isn’t long after gunning their way through the flesh-eating horde before they figure out that everything that’s happened stems from a mad scientist’s evil experiment, and they take it upon themselves to stop him. And really, that’s about all there is to it.

The few cutscenes that exist are rife with common horror tropes, such as a car that conveniently breaks down in front of a graveyard and the subsequent “Let’s continue on foot!” The main characters even try to excuse the lack of originality by pointing out the lack of originality in the script. While this style of self-parody does work in the hands of a better writer, it falls flat here and only serves as a reminder of what a terrible script you’re being subjected to (if the barrage of spelling and grammar errors weren’t enough of a giveaway). It’s tough to keep up with the text, since it scrolls so fast, though if you do, be wary of the I’s spelled both upper and lowercase, as well as periods and commas that like to hang out together for no good reason. Also, be conscious of phrases masquerading as sentences that don’t actually make any sense when read aloud.

Okay, so the story is a mess, but that’s excusable if the game is good, right? Unfortunately for Zombie Blaster, that’s strike two.

The game is a House of the Dead knockoff that tries to use the stylus as a replacement for the arcade’s light gun. Zombies, vampires, and bats will appear on the DS touchscreen, and to shoot them, all you have to do is tap on the screen. If they get too close, you take damage, and when your health is drained completely, you have to start the stage over again. You can alternate between a pistol, shotgun, or machine gun using the L & R buttons, though the latter two run out of ammo over time. If you need to reload, pressing B or down on the directional pad will trigger the animation for you. Sounds simple, right?

Let’s start with the reloading. This is ultimately what is going to determine your success or failure with this game. While I appreciate the initiative taken to give some purpose to the buttons on the system, there really should have been a reload icon onscreen. In addition, the reload animation is ridiculously long, which is especially problematic if there are multiple enemies onscreen that take more than a full clip in order to bring down. If that wasn’t enough, it’s not uncommon to find that you’re taking damage from something that’s either:

A) Offscreen
B) Partially offscreen and can’t be hit
C) A projectile from someone offscreen and “Oh look, I’m reloading.”

There are three different difficulty levels to play: Easy, Normal, and Hard (which translates into Slightly Less Screwed, Screwed, and Completely Screwed respectively). You can also choose to play as either of the two teenagers, though the difference seems to be purely cosmetic save for an instance where they decide to split up briefly late in the game. They look vaguely reminiscent of the kids from Zombies Ate My Neighbors, which made me a bit upset, as it reminded me of how much better of a game that was.

If you’re bored enough to play the game more than once, it does keep track of high scores for you. It will also allow you to play two players locally if you’re desperate to share in the experience. The multiplayer mode is identical to the solo game, except you have someone to help you out. Not that you’d find many willing participants or anything.

If what I had to say about the story and gameplay didn’t tip you off already, it probably doesn’t surprise you that the presentation in Zombie Blaster is severely lacking, making for strike three. Try to imagine the worst looking first generation N64 or PS1 game that you’ve ever played, and this is a step below that. The artwork looks like it was done in MS Paint, and the character models are more jagged than a sawblade. At least the environments are somewhat varied.

Aurally, things don’t stand up too well either. The music is a generic selection of things you’d probably hear in a department store Halloween section with some electric guitar added to it. The gunshots sound fine enough, though making impact and subsequently neutralizing a target just doesn’t have the kind of satisfaction you would expect from the genre. Oh, and don’t get me started on the voices. Many of the enemies sound like you just ended Elmo’s life after you finish putting a bullet through them.

The best thing I can say about Zombie Blaster is that it’s at least playable, even if it’s a bit unfair at times. That’s honestly the only compliment I can think of. Best skip this one.

Short Attention Span Summary
While the title of Zombie Blaster sounds very much like a thing one would enjoy doing, the actual game itself is anything but joyful. The presentation is awful, the story isn’t very good while also being a grammatical nightmare, and the gameplay just isn’t very fun. If you somehow found yourself having paid money for it, there are three different difficulty levels, twelve stages, and a two-player co-op mode. While that may sound like a good thing for masochists, Zombie Blaster is just mediocre enough that you can’t even derive bad game pleasure from it. Do yourself a favor and blast it from your memory.

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