Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Zombie Attack 2 impressions

There seems to be no lack of zombies in games these days. Be they gruesome and frightening like the ones in Left 4 Dead, or cute and whimsical in Plants Vs Zombies, they’ve become a rather popular enemy for people play against. So, the proliferation of zombies in tower-defense games shouldn’t be a surprise at all.
What do I think of IUGO’s game? Not too bad, actually.
From what I’ve seen of tower defense games you do one of two things; either you defend a location on a map with terrain and other considerations, or you’re given a near clean slate of an area that you must use to create a gauntlet as you see fit. Zombie Attack! Second Wave is in between the two – while you do have a map with terrain considerations, there’s a lot of space and zombies wander as opposed to politely marching around in single file.

Places to go, things to do…

There are four maps that I know of (can more be unlocked?); a ruined bridge, graveyard, a trailer park and your backyard. The bridge is playable in the demo, and is probably my favorite. One side of the map will spawn zombies at regular intervals, the other side will have whatever you’re trying to defend (such as an ambulance).

Each map has various terrain features for you to attempt to work with; the bridge has rubble and even gaps that most enemies cannot cross, but most of the rest simply have areas that slow down the zombies. I have to admit I found this a little disappointing – having more options for choking off or controlling routes would’ve been nice.

You’re in the action.

Unlike some of the other games I’ve played, you control a character who runs around to map to place, upgrade and boost weapons. This is a rather novel spin on what I’m used to in the genre, but has its ups and downs. Its nice for things to be a little more interactive – if you stand on a weapon turret, you boost its damage. You have a little more of a rush trying to get to weapons to upgrade them. But at the same time, it can be more difficult trying to do those things, especially in later levels when there are more zombies flooding the map.

While you do have a weapon to defend yourself with, its generally not a good idea to attack things if you can help it. You are relatively weak and fragile. If you get killed, you have to wait until you respawn to get back into the action. As such, placing turrets is your best option.

Bang-bang.

This is where the meat of the game is. You can buy and place turrets all over the map provided they’re not on a terrain feature (mud, rocks, etc) or too close to a currently placed turret. So, while a zombie cannot pass through a turret, there is room around it for them to move. This helps gate their movement somewhat, and allows for you to place things as you (mostly) like, but forces you to think about placement more. Especially since, so far as I can tell, you cannot sell or remove turrets! I feel this makes the game a bit more difficult than has to be since one poorly placed turret can mess you up, and what was a good idea early on might not be so later on. Turrets seem fairly standard – machine guns (single-target attack), flamethrowers (short-range but affect multiple enemies), that sort of thing.

Personally, and maybe I’m a bit spoiled, but I would’ve liked to have seen more weapons.
The fact that prices rise as the game progresses is both interesting and frustrating. You’re low on money to start the game with, so having the prices go up early on when its slow and your earnings are low isn’t much fun.

You play until you die.

For the most part the game is about one thing and one thing only – surviving. There doesn’t seem to be an end at all – you play until the place you are defending is overrun by zombies and destroyed. It’s a fairly constant pace of enemies, but there’s not a huge variety of them. This doesn’t really help the repetition all that much, in my opinion.

What I’ve liked with games such as Plants Vs Zombies and Defense Grid is that there is an end to the madness. You build, improve, all the while knowing that if you can make it past the final rush, you’ve defeated the stage, maybe earning new weapons or getting new enemies to fight against. There’s none of that in Zombie Attack 2, and I wish there was. You’re really playing for a high score but that’s not so interesting for me. While there is a challenge mode that changes the rules of the game a bit, I can’t say it does much for me. Even something as simple as “survive 5 minutes” would be great – there’d be a definite, concrete goal, and it would allow for short, lunch-break friendly games.

Would I recommend this?

Maybe. The big thing would be “how do you like to play?” If you’re like me and want the game to have a definite beginning, middle and end? No, I can’t, especially with Popcap’s excellent Plants Vs Zombies on its way to WP7. But if you want to see how hard and far you can push yourself? I think its well worth trying. Its something I’ll fire up now and then, but not something I really find myself wanting to play like some other games out there. I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it, but not much else.

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