Zombies. SO MANY ZOMBIES. Within the first few minutes of gameplay I was feeling a little overwhelmed…well, a lot overwhelmed.
Australian developer Halfbrick Studios recently re-released their high selling top-down shooter Age of Zombies on PS Vita, and it’s as brilliant as ever.
Playing as badass human-one-liner-hero Barry Steakfries, you take it upon yourself to travel through time chasing down the evil Professor Brains, who has begun executing his fantastical plan for world domination. You go through major points in the history of the world fighting off hordes of zombies, super zombies and delightfully ridiculous bosses.
Before I even got into the story and my journey through time, I was taken aback by the audacity of the game’s music. It is driven largely by heavy metal themes and tones, with and eclectic mix of instruments and sounds that are customized for the time period you are playing in. If there were ever a soundtrack I’d want blasting for my day to day activities, it’d be this one. Wonderfully non-complex but subtly deep enough to keep you in the mood to tear rotting flesh from the dead for hours on end, the music is even better paired to the sound effects and voice-overs in game. From simply picking up weapons, to the moans of the un-dead, each sound shows the meticulous amount of thought that went in to production of the sound and foley. As you will see in so many other categories, the little details thrown in to retain player immersion is what sets this game apart from other top-down shooters.
Self described by Halfbrick as a digitally remastered version of the acclaimed iOS version, one would expect the graphics to improve somewhat from old to new platform. I can say, with certainty, I wasn’t disappointed. The obvious enlargement of the screen, paired with a full use of my OLED lit Vita makes for a genuinely attractive remaster. The overall smoothness of the animations and maps is improved from iOS to Vita, making the world feel just a bit more tied together. The art and animation in Age of Zombies has never felt disjointed, but on occasion felt as if it was accidental in areas. This iteration feels much more purposeful and tight. Colors and contrast have never been a problem for Halfbrick, and it shows even stronger with the accommodation of the OLED screen.
As bright-and-shiny as the game felt to look at, navigating it was problematic at times, but much improved from iOS. (In the interest of candour, I’ve never been a huge fan of twin stick games on mobile. Or any game on mobile for that matter.) The simplistic control scheme transferred well to Vita, with exception to the touch surfaces. Obviously not being re-designed to make use of them in any different way than iOS, it’s an unrealistic expectation to think there would be any large importance to them, but it would have been interesting to see Halfbrick tackle the new input surfaces.
Moving around maps took a bit to get used to, as some of the impassible objects seemed to change their qualifications from one map to another. Once discovered though, they offered good aid to evading and gaining ground on the dead masses chasing me. Keeping with the theme of self discover, there lacked a distinct tutorial, which is forgivable given the simplicity of the game but would have saved a bit of frustration in the latter half of the game when new enemies were introduced with incredible subtlety. Especially the exploding zombies. Those things got annoying fast.
However, although at points the difficulty and enemy progression were frustrating, I can’t fault the gameplay score because of it. It kept it fresh throughout, and certainly gave me much more satisfaction after discovering a weakness or advantage to be had over a certain enemy. I figured out how to use the exploding zombies to my advantage. ‘Twas excellent.
Being as simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to Age of Zombies (or is the name Age of Zombies? I’m still not sure) the story obviously didn’t tug any heartstrings or have me texting friends over shocking developments à la The Last of Us, but it did have its merits. Hardly no establishing scenes were set for characters, I just got shot into a time portal and started pulling the trigger. Any allies or enemies you came across had no intrinsic value, and thusly no emotion came from their despair or defeat. Halfbrick does make up for this however, through their brilliant comedy writing which actually fits the mold better than an involved story would have. Constantly making me laugh and throwing snarky comments at the zombies I was mowing down held my interest as much as good story would’ve.
Currently available on the PlayStation store for $4.99, Age of Zombies is a refreshing new iteration of the classic iOS game, sure to put a smile on your face and take up plenty of your time. With a survival mode to keep you company and plenty of trophies to earn, you’ll be looking at a ton of game for the price. Halfbrick did an incredible job at re-hashing an awesome game on a new system, and did a fantastic job of not over complicating it just for the sake of doing so.
Ok, now that this review is done, time to get back to trying to for wave 15 in survival mode…wish me luck!