A few days ago I felt like wanting to play some Virtua Cop. Yeah, I wanted some lighthearted rail shooting action with low poly graphics and bright colours. I was even ready to compromise and playing it with the controller. Filled with nostalgia I opened the Eshop and Zombie Panic popped up.
By an incredibile coincidence, it really fitted the description, and the fact that it is not a light gun shooter, but a third person one with onscreen crosshair so the game is balanced to be played with a stick, it made it the perfect treat for myself so I spent the money and dug into the game.
I’ll give praise to the cute characters and colourful environments and to his basic gameplay but I am not entirely sure what the DX suffix in the title stands for. This is a port of a 3ds/wiiware and despite the first release was years ago, no effort has been put into polishing the game or the user interface, to the point that the options do not even feature a “restore default settings”. Talk about Deluxe.
In Zombie Panic you play as Momotaro, the peach boy, or one of three unlockable girl protagonists in a tale that involve their respective tales, zombies and scented dwarves. Quite a fun setting. To get the job done you have your standard machine-gun and two additional weapons that you need to find ammunition for by destroying the environments with much joy: a very powerful railgun that is extremely efficient and a useless flamethrower which purpose I could understand other than obstructing the visuals and getting you killed in the process. Your character is quite big on the screen so if an enemy is standing directly in front of you, it is almost impossible to see what they are throwing at you. You can move the character left and right to position yourself, but when you ignite the flamethrower you can’t see anything which usually means eating up enemy bullets that can spell game over in a matter of seconds. And this brings up the main flaw of the game.
I am all up for an arcade difficulty. What I am not up is being treated unfairly just to make the game harder to beat, thus longer. Longevity should come with careful design, not through with artificial impediments, as Zombie Panic does: if you manage two play wisely and end up stocking a few lives by collecting the heart-shaped lollipops, your lives are reset to the three standard at the beginning of each stage. This really managed to upset me.
Get hit three times and you are given a continue. Die again and you are sent back to the main menu (ok, sure you get a continue, but I’d rather keep my hard earned lives, thank you). Even if you select “continue your previous game” you need to start over from square one. HOWEVER if you manage to beat the boss and then you die, by selecting the same option you will be able to start from the fourth stage. So I presume there is a some sort of obscure saving system after each boss, that will eventually allow to beat the game with a little patience.
There is no hint or visual clue about this feature, and this says a lot about the care put into wrapping up the whole thing for the Switch release.
I said presume, because I am not sure when I am going back to beat the thing. It got stale pretty quickly, and I am probably going to save it for some coop action if opportunity arises, just to share the misery.
The action is ok, don’t get my wrong, you want to be on your toes and eliminate threats in a smart way so the screen doesn’t get full of enemies that overwhelm you with numbers and firepower but it still somehow feels slow-paced and it doesn’t do much to have you coming back for more. You often die because you let your guard down after minutes of mildly paced sections that provide little threats. Or because you used the flamethrower to break the monotony a little.
Even if you have a craving for this genre, the Eshop offers a couple of alternatives as Nam 1975 and Wild Guns, two well-known arcade ancestors that might be like 50 years old, but they still kick and provide superior action and an overall better gameplay experience.
SCORE : MEH out of 5
+ Cute graphics and bright colours.
+ Local co-op
– Unfair balancing and factitious difficulty
– I really need to stop buying these games