Almost a year ago, before Gear-Fish crawled out of the evolutionary muck and drew its first labored breaths, before I’d written a review for anything or met a bunch of fine people, I was a casual acquaintance of the XBLIG channel. I’d only played a handful to that point, mostly the bigger names I’d read about on bigger sites. But when I did venture off the beaten path, I wasn’t too picky. Avatars? Sure. I stare dotingly at myself in the mirror for hours already, so why not do the same when playing games? And zombies? Back then I’d have sampled anything with zombies in it… yeah, I didn’t know any better. But now that I’ve played the worst and the best the market has to offer, seen what can happen when creativity gets the floor on Open Mic night, my bar sits higher than it did once upon a time in XBLIG Past. I’ve raised my standards. Developers can’t stand in place and still jump over that bar, but, with a running start and decent timing, it can be cleared.
City Zombified (80 MSP) not only hits its head on that metaphorical bar repeatedly, it doesn’t even bother to jump. It just sits there, timid, dully refusing to make eye contact or start a conversation, yet inexplicably counting on my sympathy (and my dollar). City Zombified is a brand of terrible on par with The $1 Zombie Game (review), but still not bad enough to take the title from Zombies, Zombies Everywhere (review). That atrocity was a reverse-Kickstarter that required a set amount of people to purchase the released product before the developers lazily added features to make it a complete game.
Trust me, it plays exactly how it looks.
At the very least, CZ doesn’t go that route, though the two modes it does offer don’t add up to anything worthy of your time. Sentinel is the game’s ‘Story’ mode (those quotes are meant to frame that word loosely), which has objectives that need to be met in each level, like citizen protection or exposing zombies hidden in exploding snowmen (seriously, can’t make this stuff up), and Survival is your standard, ‘fight through endless waves’ mode that lacks any kind of balance whatsoever. Much like $1 Zombie, the combat is so bland, and the game so set on throwing money at you to upgrade and restock between rounds, you’re pretty much guaranteed to go on fighting forever until you make the conscious decision to just lay down and get eaten.
It’s impossible to imagine where the blueprints of the town (Serene City, oh how very ironic) originated from; dark, wide-open spaces, houses dotting the landscape, but lampposts sprinkled liberally in-between. What are they meant to illuminate? No streets, no sidewalks, not much of anything. The city planners should have all been shot. The survivors you’re asked to rescue (pretty much everyone, as no one evacuated; the zombie apocalypse must’ve been an improvement at first) are characters seemingly ripped from a failed Tarantino casting for Reservoir Dogs (Mr. Unrest, Mr. Lastman, Ms. Nosy, Mr. Lifeboat, etc.) They’ll all sound like women when attacked, too, as the developer couldn’t be bothered to add a male voice track.
Excuse me, Mr. Unrest, but are these snowmen bothering you? Also, what’s wrong with your voice?
After each wave / objective list is completed, you can restock to pick up more ammo for your pistol (the default) or buy an automatic. There’s also firebombs and batteries, and lampposts (ah, that explains the unusually high number; finally, something that makes sense here!). Then you’ll shuffle on to the next objective, rinse and repeat, and… ugh. There’s zero reason to go on. The whole game feels like a chore. Everything is lacking. I mean, c’mon, the zombies appear to be roller-skating. You can’t even quit out of the game after you die. CZ actually believes you’ll be that fascinated by its charms that you’ll only ever want to continue. Ready for more? it asks. No, not now, buddy, and not ever.
Games like City Zombified give the indie channel a bad name. It’s insipid at best and playable only in the cheapest form of the word. Avoid crossing paths with it. And while you’re here, reading this, let’s erect a monument. A cookie-cutter one with no fancy fonts that exemplifies the effort these people put into these sorts of games. Allow me to engrave the epitaph, as I do have some literal and literary experience in that field. Let it simply say,
‘No more goddamn lame avatar & zombie games. You refuse to do anything meaningful with it, and you’ve clogged the marketplace enough as it is. You’re the reason this cemetery is so full.’
Place it right inside the main gate of XNA, so everyone pulling in can see it, and leave a basket nearby, full of wooden stakes and silver bullets and any other ward or talisman you can fit, so that the next time something like this rises up from that grave, anyone can send it back to the void where it belongs.
And now enough with the morbidity, so that this review can end on a high note…