I have always been a sucker for old school style titles like Bloody Zombies. Something small and moreish to sink my teeth into, but not something that drains away too much of my time. I find myself being drawn more and more to titles like that of Enter the Gungeon and Battle Brothers that offer great moments in the gameplay rather than cut-scenes or long stretches of dialogue. Bloody Zombies is a title that promises just that, though has a number of missteps along the way which sadly blot the experience.
Veterans of Streets of Rage and Double Dragon will be familiar with the game play of Bloody Zombies. Each level sees you moving to the right, killing zombies that appear to challenge you along the way, and eventually fighting a bigger, boss-sized enemy at the end. The old saying of ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ is certainly in effect here as the game is certainly as fun to play as the old classic titles are, with a wide variety of move sets to master as well as a number of weapons to pick up that gives the game a little more variety.
The aforementioned move sets do give the game a greater vitality. Smashing zombie skulls together is somewhat more satisfying when you pull off a backwards diving butterfly kick or something similarly disheartening to my fragile ego. The game’s combat feels weighty, similarly to the games it is inspired by. Enemies don’t simply stay down meaning that it is easy to be swarmed by many opponents. The key to victory is in dodging the hordes, knocking down stragglers and finishing them off before they can get back up. Simple in theory, but harder in practice as you’ll find in more challenging game modes. The weapon pick ups are varied and give your character a nice boost of power and are always a welcome find. Bludgeoning your way through a wave of zombies with a weighty lead pipe is something that takes a while to get old.
In addition to the combos, bosses and nice weapon pick ups, players have to avoid a number of obstacles that vary from swinging logs to giant razor-bladed killing machines. These add a little weight to the levels, whilst also breaking up the repetitive combat sections. Its always fun to have to suddenly run for your life from a giant boulder or a buzz-saw, but perhaps that’s the Crash Bandicoot fan boy in me.
Beyond this however the game falters in a number of ways. The game’s enemies do not feel as intimidating as a horde of zombies should do. Your one man army (or more in co-op) is always on top of the situation, and with the game play copying that of the likes of Streets of Rage the option to simply escape the horde is not an option. Without this core mechanic of the zombie experience, it feels as if the enemies might as well be mummies, werewolves or even the street-thugs of yesteryear. The zombies feel thrown in rather than built around and so as a result do not really leave much of an impact on the game itself.
The soundtrack is serviceable, it certainly fits with the standard zombie battling fare of other, similar titles. The scenery however, leaves a little to be desired. For the most part it simply looks like any western city on fire, occasionally throwing in a few red telephone boxes or a monument to remind you that you are indeed in London. It is a shame really, as the game is desperate to cling to a sense of ‘Britishness’ but doesn’t fully commit to it, resulting in a generic title with a few ‘pip pips’ and a ‘cheerio’ thrown in. Where are the top-hatted ghouls? The Zombified Queen? The horrific result of the copulation of pig and former Prime Minister?
This isn’t to say that the game itself isn’t at all fun. Surely, the experience is worthy of a few hours blitzing through as the challenge is well implemented. The problem is simply a lack of heart that makes the game feel flat and uninspired. Whilst there is nothing objectively wrong with the game as such, compared to other indie options out there it strikes me as a fairly hollow title.
Comparing it to titles like that of Shovel Knight or the more recent Cuphead, Bloody Zombies feels (pardon the pun) a little lacking in the soul department. Which at the end of the day is what a game like Bloody Zombies needs in order to stand out and distance itself from it’s obvious inspirations. The gameplay makes Bloody Zombies worth a try as it is a fun game in the end, but without a fully fleshed out theme or interesting new ideas it may not be worthy of repeat play.