When Brendon Chung of Blendo Games sent world that his latest title Atom Zombie Smasher had been released, I told myself I wouldn’t wait for someone else to tell me about the bizarre charm of the dev’s latest effort. Problem is I slouched on reaching out for a review copy and I found myself a few dollars short to purchase the full version at the moment, so instead I figure I’d run through the demo and share some thoughts.
The game takes place in a world where zombies exist and are dealt with as a military threat. During the zed’s mass resurgence in 1961, it’s up to you to slow the bleeding wounds of humanity by rescuing and rebuilding the remaining human race, capturing territories from the infected as you go along. You can do this by using the power of your ever-growing arsenal of mercenaries, who can perform a variety of tasks that will delay and/or destroy the zombie hordes (denoted by large purple squares) that attempt to surround the survivors (denoted by small yellow squares) you attempt to airlift to safety.
Your primary goal is to save a certain number of survivors, with the level concluding upon the elimination/rescue of the final survivor. Daylight and nighttime play factors, as you have a chance (however slim) to destroy all the zombies before nightfall where the undead literally pour in endlessly until any and all remaining survivors that haven’t been rescued are devoured. From the top-down perspective you really have to think fast to correctly use all of your assets with proper timing and efficiency. The first few levels are forgiving, but as the outbreaks become more severe the difficulty quickly ramps up. Each level runs around a minute or two, offering fast-paced play and elements of both the RTS and tower defense genres.
I came away very impressed with the depth of both the gameplay and the leveling system around it. There’s a ton of avenues to choose from, with different ways to improve your mercs as you level such as faster loading of passengers, reload times and increased detonations per round. It’s not your survival that’s at stake, it’s humanity’s. So any fear of the undead is immediately shrugged aside in lieu of tactical warfare as you lead a powerful and confident group, there for all your evacuating, sniping, demolition, and orbital bombardment needs.
The Zedpedia, a running dossier that grows as you progress through, is an awesomely stylistic way to present literally everything you need or would like to know about the title and how to play it. It includes mission briefings, controls, research, and of course lots of funny. Another nice touch is the Victory Tracker, which works as a campaign-spanning scoreboard between humans and infected–try and keep up.
And I have to mention the Dick Dale-esque soundtrack, which provides smooth surfer music and in-turn some comic relief when juxtaposed to the situation at hand. Blendo’s titles are certainly known for this kind of odd combination (rebel cats in space for instance) and frankly I love it–it puts you in a different frame of mind when fighting against the growing horde of infected.
Atom Zombie Smasher looks and plays great. The comic style and storyline has a nice feel to it, the rating and leveling system is addicting as hell, and the gameplay itself is just really, really fun. Whether you have five minutes or five hours there’s goodness to be had here.
The full game offers co-op, mod support and more, while the demo itself offers plenty for what you’d expect from a trial version. It certainly does its job of enticing players to throw down the $15 to unlock the full game.