Indie Quickie: Zombie Night Terror

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What is it and who made it? Instead of fighting to survive the zombie apocalypse, you are the zombie apocalypse in this puzzle-strategy game by NoClip and Gambitious Digital Entertainment.

What platforms is it on and how much does it cost? It’s out now for Windows PC and Mac for $12.99 via Steam, GOG.com, or Humble Store. All digital storefronts are currently offering a 15% launch week discount. A special edition upgrade is also available with wallpapers and the soundtrack.

How much did we play? I’ve completed the first chapter (of four) and 11 levels (of 40 total) in a hair over two hours, and achieved the optional bonus challenges on only two of the levels (they’re tough).

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements, or other details you should know about? This is primarily a strategy game, so don’t expect gamepad controls here. The mouse and keyboard interface is done very well, with simple button and key inputs for zooming the camera in/out, pausing gameplay, and turning on fast-forward to hasten the pace as needed, plus hotkeys and mouse commands in addition to cursor selection directly from the in-game HUD. All of the key commands can also be remapped. As for performance, I haven’t had any bugs or technical issues. One thing I have noticed though upon replaying certain stages is that the enemy AI routines react differently under the same circumstances. For example in the level 10 boss fight, the opening requires that you catapult your zombies up to a ledge where the boss is waiting with a machine gun. In my attempts, sometimes he would stand his ground and mow through all of my zombies without me being able to do anything, and yet on other tries he would run away deeper into the level like he was supposed to. It took me five or six tries to beat that stage, and I used the same commands to start things off each time, so there’s definitely an imbalance of some sort that makes parts of the game feel unfairly random.

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Why should you play it?

    • Zombie Lemmings: Each stage in Zombie Night Terror is a side-view environment crawling with disgusting humans that need to be infected with the junkie plague. Zombies are your brainless lemmings, willing to follow your every command in order to kill the living, reanimate flesh and blood as undead, and spread the apocalypse. The shambling lemmings at your disposal move under their own volition, however their volition only extends to walking and biting any human being that crosses their path. Beyond that, they’re pretty much useless without proper guidance, so you have to help them get from point to point by toggling arrow markers to determine the paths they take or square icons to indicate doors or other environmental objects for the zombies to destroy. Or by choosing certain zombies to promote to the job of overlord, more powerful zombies that serve as signposts to provide further direction to the underlings that pass by. Mutations can be administered to your army of walking dead, commanding individuals to jump, sprint, explode, or change to other forms, such as crawler zombies capable of climbing on walls and performing sneak attacks from behind. Mutations given to overlords amplify an ability’s effect, for example increasing the AOE of an explosion or allowing an overlord to lob zombies higher and farther than the standard leap ability. Mutations and overlord transformations all require the use of a limited resource of DNA, which is harvested from each human kill, collected from glowing green containers, or, as a last resort, obtained by choosing a zombie to sacrifice for the greater good. Achieving success is all about learning how to efficiently deploy and combine these commands without having direct control over each individual unit.

    • Mmmm…Brains: Unlike the vast majority of zombie games out there, Zombie Night Terror, as a strategy-forward experience, is a game of careful planning and making quick tactical adjustments to meet the changing landscapes and enemy encounters. In other words, a game that actually requires thinking and problem solving. Each level is basically a puzzle that needs to be solved. The goals start out by simply having you kill and infect a certain number of humans, but steadily the objectives become more nuanced, tasking you with, say, chasing down bandits before they can reach their getaway car, or guiding at least one surviving zombie through a gauntlet of enemies and traps to reach an exit point. Killing humans is good, but sometimes you have to think of each zombie as a hit point in your life bar, and gauge the risk/reward of going out of the way to infect everyone versus taking the path of least resistance. The environments scale in complexity from one level to the next. Zombie suicide bombers need to be used to spread the infection to humans otherwise unreachable on the next floor up, or to destroy weak walls and floors, thereby opening up new pathways for the rest of the crew to follow. The jump command becomes crucial for platform-hopping across gaps, avoiding damage, or to leap at distant enemies. Judicious use of DNA is a key part of the strategic planning as well, so you don’t run dry and have to needlessly sacrifice multiple minions just to have enough for a specific mutation power when it’s needed most. Enemies also escalate in power, starting out as lowly, defenseless civilians before turning into humans willing to fight back with melee weapons, pistols, shotguns, machine guns, mines, and security camera surveillance to set off traps. If you don’t lend the power of your grey cells to those that lack it, your zombie horde will be easily slaughtered in a matter of moments.

    • Pixel Art Apocalypse: Yeah, yeah. I know the whole pixel art motif has become overdone for some folks (not me of course, I never tire of pixel art!), but Zombie Night Terror brings a different aesthetical flavor that deserves commendation. The black and white style lends the game a macabre, almost noir mood, which contrasts nicely with vibrant flourishes of neon green effects and gushing red blood splatters. There’s also an underlying dark charm to the game, through the over the top gore (the animations are particularly gruesome yet humorous at the same time), not-so-menacing zombie designs that are strangely kind of cute, inklings toward retro horror cinema, and silly gibberish-speak that’s used for the voice-overs. Even the tutorial elements are woven into the game in a clever way, presented as news broadcast scenes, accessed by clicking on glowing TV screens in the background, in which anchor April Fox describes mechanics in the form of reports on new zombie mutations. This is a bloody, violent game, but not unpleasantly so.

Parting Thoughts: Zombie Night Terror is a fun and surprisingly challenging puzzle-strategy game with a wonderfully morbid pixel art style and an undercurrent of dark humor that helps cut through the tension. Challenging is a word that should be emphasized, because even in its early stages it is no easy task completing a level on the first go. The optional bonus objectives for each stage (clear within a time limit, kill every human, find a secret room or item, et cetera) add even more challenge and replay for players eager to fully master the mechanics. I guess my overall takeaway so far is that Zombie Night Terror is a zombie game that even gamers who don’t typically care for zombie games can enjoy. It’s a zombie game with a brain. Go figure.

What is Indie Quickie? It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

Disclosure: A Steam code for Zombie Night Terror was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s publisher.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!