It’s October and as usual, it’s a time for monsters, ghouls and ghosts, but zombies seem to be the flavor of the moment. Zombieland is blazing a bloody trail in theaters and Left 4 Dead 2 is hotly anticipated. For immediate rotting-flesh-fetishists, why not try a little Zombie Apocalypse? Part Smash-TV and part Left 4 Dead, ZA is a 4 player arcade shooter for Xbox Live Arcade and PSN that drops players into your typical zombie survival scenario from a top-down perspective. You’ll fight back a number of different shamblers including The Sheriff (a shuffler with a shotgun), Pukers (their sick slows you down) and The Queen (pregnant with flying hell-spawn that like to decapitate).
There’s 55 levels, but only 7 areas to fight through. Each level contains environmental hazards, only hazardous to the undead though. On one hand, the hazards add some variety to the typical unlimited-ammo mow down. There’s something satisfying about forcing a zombie into a wood chipper or the spinning turbines of a downed jumbo jet. Divide 55 by 7 and you get just a few too many repeated level layouts, even if they do mix it up by lighting them occasionally with a single spotlight on the player(s).
Aside from your never-fail M16, other weapons will drop from the sky. Twin SMGs or the shotgun will keep the undead at a distance and the grenade launcher makes a satisfying cloud of body parts. And where would a zombie game be without a chainsaw and a flamethrower? I’m just not sure about the hunting rifle (a scoped weapon without a scope function?) or worse, a box of Molotov cocktails that are just a little awkward to aim and sluggish to actually throw. Oh, and don’t forget to use your explosive teddy bears, cuz zombies just can’t get enough of pink teddy bears.
There are a couple of boss battles, but aside from throwing a larger monster at you, they’re pretty uneventful and being that you’ve got essentially unlimited lives (continuing picks up immediately mid-level where you left off) progressing through all 55 days (1 day per level) is more a matter of persistence than a challenge. Alone, you’ll probably hit the final boss in about 5-6 hours. Progression earns additional game modes like Chainsaws Only, Blackout and Turbo to help extend gameplay a little, but it’s the multiplayer that will keep you coming back.
360 Achievement addicts be warned though. If you’ve got people over to slay on a single TV, only one logged in user will receive achievements during the game. Sure, that might motivate players to buy their own copies, but in a household with multiple players and one console the previously mentioned repetitive gameplay gets worse and actually discourages local multiplay.
Simply put, Zombie Apocalypse is a lot of mindless fun in with a group, particularly online. It will get old, but it’s a great ride for a small ticket price that won’t be too hard to convince others to join you on.