Review: Escape from Zombie City (Nintendo 3DS)


Escape from Zombie City
Publisher: Tom Create
Developer: Tom Create
Genre: Overhead shooter
Release date: 10/10/2013

After all these years, it seems video gaming’s love affair with the shambling dead hasn’t waned. Maybe it is the sense of power gamers feel by mowing down legions of helpless minions or maybe the games are just that easy to develop since the enemies just make a straight line for the player in most cases. Regardless, many of gaming’s most memorable titles in recent times feature the creature that was once a role-playing staple.

I gravitated toward Escape from Zombie City because the art gave me a Metal-Slug/Shock Troopers vibe and it seemed to be an easily accessible title. Thankfully, the title proved to be just that. While most indie games with zombies ultimately miss the mark, Escape is a quick-fix zombie title worth its low asking price.

There isn’t much to the story in Escape, but, to boil it down, the player takes control of a soldier who is stuck in the middle of zombie outbreak. The beginning of the title doesn’t do much with the story, putting forth the obvious statements of surviving and pushing forward to safety, but a few other characters appear later in the game to add to the narrative, as simple as it may still be.

The story does add an interesting element of a countdown clock that gives players a heads-up on how long they have to clear the game until a military strike obliterates everything in the city. Players can continue as many times as they like, but doing so docks time off the clock as a penalty. The easy and normal difficulties have a fairly generous time allotment, but the hard difficulty doesn’t allow for many mistakes.

As I’ve said in other reviews, quickfire titles are pick-up-and-play affairs, so extravagant cutscenes and scriptwriting aren’t expected here. What’s here is serviceable and simplicity keeps players rolling into the action.

Earlier, I compared the presentation to Shock Troopers, and while this isn’t a pixel-perfect matchup with the SNK title, Escape holds plenty of charm with its colorful and borderline super deformed characters. The environments are, unfortunately, a bit drab compared to the characters, but, overall, Escape puts forth some above average visuals.

Most of the sound effects and music are on par, with nothing really standing out. However, I did find the zombie groaning to be fairly effective. When the enemies really pile on the screen, the game layers the groaning together at a high volume to give the player a sense he or she is being surrounded by the undead.

Boiling down the gameplay, players are simply tasked with moving and shooting while trying to stay alive. In an extra layer of control, players can hold down a button to keep the character still and fire in all directions. This also boosts the damage done by the character’s attacks, so digging in can really be beneficial to survival.

Escape launches players into short levels, but the levels require a little exploration of the surroundings instead of blasting through to the end. I believe a key to any solid zombie title is in the mantra that fighting isn’t always the best option.

This title doesn’t focus solely on this, but options such as being able to shove dumpsters in front of zombie spawn points to keep them away, lighting flares to create a temporary path to run through and taking advantage of fenced-in areas to avoid going toe-to-toe with zombies add more to the game than basic running and gunning. Each stage requires a key to unlock the exit, so playing smart and checking out the entire stage prevents the need to backtrack through the stage and put yourself in danger again.

Still, Escape gives players plenty of tools to dispatch zombie foes. On top of a standard pistol, players can pick up grenades, machine guns, shotguns, flamethrowers and more. Maintaining a survival theme, the pistol isn’t so effective against hordes, especially on the hard difficulty, but ammo management is key to keeping a better weapon on hand. Some of Escape’s most intense moments result from running out of a weapon’s ammo in the middle of a firefight and the moments of vulnerability is where I thought the game’s action shined.

Still, players will likely not be able to help feel the enemies are recycled too much and the dark and run-down environments are run into each other. Occasional boss encounters freshen up a couple of fights, but a little more variety could have helped boost the game a bit more.

With 25 short stages offered upfront, players will be able to tackle through easy or normal in a short order, with a hard mode available for those looking for a little bit more of a challenge. Still, Escape has a few rewards tucked away to keep players coming back a couple of times. Each difficulty has a set of ranks the player can earn – essentially not dying and carrying out a specific task such as rescuing civilians in each stage.

When I cleared out the normal difficulty, I discovered the game gave me infinite ammunition for a railgun. This ability allowed me to easily backtrack and earn S ranks for each stage on the difficulty. Doing this unlocked even more stages with a new character. This smart use of reward and progression probably brought me back to the game at least three more times than I would have normally spent with the title.


Short Attention Span Summary
Overall, Escape from Zombie City was an interesting title that held my attention longer than I thought it would. For only a couple of bucks, those really into zombie shooters will get their fill as it proves to be a solid title. While it doesn’t reinvent the genre, it offers a few mechanics that keep it from being a plodding run-and-gun game and it wisely tucks in a few rewards to bring players back a couple more times. In a medium chock full of zombie efforts, Escape plays it safe for the most part, but the results are mildly satisfying.

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