A poorly-cut, homemade intravenous drug called Romero (nudge nudge, wink wink) is causing some additional side effects than those that are usually experienced. Glowing an ominous green, it causes users to become nauseated, coughing up blood until they become part of an unholy army of the undead. Such is the premise of Zombie Night Terror, from developer NoClip. A sometimes very slow-paced strategy game (I mean, these aren’t exactly the energetic zombies from 28 Days Later), Zombie takes games such as Infectonator and expands on the concept so that players aren’t simply placing zombies and hoping for the best; players are controlling the horde…at least, that’s the idea.
I feel pretty confident in saying that games like Plague, Inc. and Infectonator have proven me to be a great vector for dis- wait, no, they prove that I am a great controller of vectors of disease. I have killed the entire world with a bacteria in less time than it takes between being called into an exam room and the doctor arriving (this is my primary mobile gaming time, ironically). The premise behind Zombie Night Terror isn’t terribly different, you’re just strategically placing infections and directing them via environment guides.
The game begins with different chapters, each with a goal and a challenge. For example, the first level instructs you to kill 12 humans with the virus, via zombies. As a challenge, you can attempt to kill every human. Since people will scream and run away, you must figure out how to surround them, and seeing as how you have a few syringes of the “good stuff” to pass around, it’s not difficult to just infect those on the outside of the screen, so they can close in. This simplicity gives way, very slowly, to a degree of difficulty that is maddeningly addictive.
Later levels introduce you to the complicated concept of directing the zombies via small arrows on the ground (to go up and down stairs), and unlocking doors (via small icons underneath said doors). As an added bonus, there are a number of armed humans that can be difficult to overpower, and when one of the challenge goals is to not lose any zombies during the attack, more strategy must be applied to turn them as soon as possible to minimize risk. Barrels of toxic infection are placed in areas, which refill your syringe supplies when zombies walk past them. In some levels, this is the only way to reach your goal, so direction of the horde becomes critically important. There are 40 levels, so pay attention – everything is important when you’re hunting creatures who don’t want to die.
As you progress, you gain the ability to add different kinds of zombies to the mix for maximum impact. These mutations allow you to overcome greater obstacles such as humans with stronger weapons, and using combos help to (literally) pave the way for the horde to overtake all life. Zombies must feed, and they must infect others to continue to be able to beat the odds, and both of those are your responsibility.
Getting down to brass tacks, the controls in Zombie Night Terror are extremely simple, and are essentially the same as a very simple ARPG, oddly. You have your number bar to select which item you’re going to use, you can use either the arrow keys or WASD to scroll through the environment, and you make selections and zoom with the mouse. Aside from the occasional derp (which is kind of my thing – you can’t learn without making mistakes!), I had very little trouble navigating, and it was all very intuitive at its core. The responsiveness was great, too – if you want that zombie to mutate, dammit, it’s going to happen right that second.
I’d say the sound design is not only appropriate, but suitably creepy. The music is rough, but so are the graphics, and both are done on purpose. Sound effects such as shuffling, shouts of alarm, weapons, and even the silly voice acting (random syllables that are almost musical) contribute to an atmosphere that keeps things light, but also reminds the player that there are things to get done. The shrieks when characters are running away from zombies are particularly delightful, for some reason, and I think perhaps it’s a comedic tone. Whatever happened, there, I like it.
Again, the graphics are rough – they’re the 8-bit style that was insanely popular in indie games last year, but then kind of trailed off a bit. The difference, to me, is in how those graphics are used. In a storytelling game, they feel almost lazy or arrogant, as though the writers felt that the player shouldn’t focus on such base things as graphics when the story and combat were the purpose of development. Zombie Night Terror doesn’t put on such airs. The game is a murderous rampage, the story is thin, and the graphics are more than sufficient to show the level of gore involved in a zombie takeover. In fact, there is a warning about inappropriate content when attempting to view the store page, which is something one wouldn’t expect, but I suppose the theme of drugs is enough to do that, even without the gratuitous blood-spatters that are a constant companion to gameplay.
It may sound like I didn’t expect much of the game. In fact, the opposite is true. It’s difficult, these days, to create a simple indie game with such a premise without either being dogged for “not trying,” or given crap because the concept isn’t unique enough. With Zombie Night Terror, I say, “Who cares?” You get to direct zombies around discotheques and through labs, and slaughter the heck out of people who are just standing around during an apocalypse. I mean, come on – sometimes you just need some mindless gore…but this game isn’t mindless, so those who like a little challenge with their hunt aren’t disappointed, either. In order to get all of the challenge achievements, a little bit of repetition is in order for the goal-oriented achievement-hunters.
Is it the best game I’ve ever played. Nope. Is it in my Top Ten zombie games? I might say it’s actually in my Top Five. I like puzzle games, I like zombie games, and I like games that deliver on what they promise. Zombie Night Terror fits the bill. I realize that this sort of game isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and if you’re one for faster action games, you will be fidgeting too much to enjoy yourself, so you might want to steer clear. If you like the anticipation of watching doom slowly stagger toward a victim, well – here you go, you delightful sadist. Enjoy.
Zombie Night Terror releases today, July 20, on Steam and GOG.com for $12.99, or $17.99 for a Special Edition that includes the soundtrack and exclusive wallpapers. Follow the game on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about upcoming additions and projects.