May 6, 2013 5 Comments
Sigh. You know, despite having played literally dozens of games just like this, when I saw screens for Zombie Estate 2, I got excited. I know that I sometimes bitch about being fatigued by the endless zombie games on XBLIG, or the endless twin-stick shooters, or especially combinations of the two. But, just the prospect of a decent one gets me excited. Yea yea, I’m supposed to be too hip for this kind of stuff and not admit what I just said. It would be like admitting that I’m a fan of nose-picking. Which I’m not, even though there are few things in life quite as satisfying as picking your nose. Especially when you get a particularly stubborn booger that’s lodged way up there. When you finally yank it out, it’s practically nirvana.
I’m guessing all those invites I get to gaming conferences just dried up. It’s just as well.
It didn’t take too long into Zombie Estate 2 to realize the game would have big, big problems. Not among them are the graphics, which offer some charming 2D visuals. Can’t get enough of those. Okay, so the text is too small, which is about as common a problem as you’ll find on the XBLIG scene. My television is so big that God had to first move it out of the way before creating light, and yet I practically had to sit on top of the screen to make out some of the words. Still, games with graphics that do this good a job of putting a modern twist on blocky, low-resolution 80s pixel art are typically pretty high in quality. Maybe Zombie Estate 2 would be no different, but it has one very glaring issue: the difficulty is so intensely out-of-bounds past the point of reality that it simply can’t be enjoyed.
ZE2 is a wave-shooter with enemies that are spongy and move much faster than you. And it’s not just a few zombies either. It’s having large portions of the screen saturated with the fucking things. The game doesn’t send out just enough zombies to make up the wave. Oh no. Let’s say that the object of a level is to kill 100 zombies, and you have 99 killed. How many zombies would you expect there to be on the screen? Just one, right? Try dozens. All of which are grouped together. When you kill the last one, the rest just vanish into thin air. This gives you a chance to pick up those items. Unless they’re about to blink out of existence themselves, which they do too quickly.
In order to better fight off the hoards, you can buy new weapons or upgrade existing ones. Sounds, great, except picking up item drops (such as money) is a chore itself. When you kill a zombie, chances are it’s part of the pack that’s closing in on you. As soon as it drops something, whatever it is gets immediately covered up by dozens of enemies. Your character sucks up items, but the range and speed it does so is so negligible that it might as well not do that. And besides all that, enemies rarely drop valuable money or health packs. Mostly, they drop ammo. This would be fine, except they mostly seemed to drop ammo for guns I didn’t have. It’s around this point that you realize if there’s such thing as a game that is an asshole for the sake of being an asshole, it’s Zombie Estate 2. It’s not lovable or fun to be around, nor does it make any effort at doing so.
Over the course of 48 hours, I played Zombie Estate 2 three separate times, and ended each session in utter frustration. How can a game with all the fundamental mechanics for a pretty good time be so thoroughly destroyed by reckless design? For God’s sake, there are fire enemies that can spawn right on top of you with no warning right in the middle of the fucking map! No matter how much I bobbed and weaved around the level, they would appear on me, and I would start to lose health. What the fuck, Zombie Estate 2? Were you abused as a child? Mind you, this is on the easiest difficulty setting. You can go ahead and call me a shitty gamer too. I think if I’m defined as being a bitch because I don’t think you should have a game where enemies randomly spawn on top of you, I can live with the label. Or the tired “you just suck at games” label that is the be all, end all excuse horrible game enthusiasts throw at me when I say “this game is not worth buying.” And Zombie Estate 2 is not worth buying. Too difficult. Too concerned with making the game excruciating instead of entertaining. It resists being fun. It looks like it will be good, and it sounds like it will be good, but it just is not good. It’s the Kwame Brown of video games.
80 Microsoft Points figure it’s yet another case of a developer getting to good at their own game but didn’t mention it in the body of the review because they don’t want to sound like a broken record in the making of this review. Seriously though, why is the game so fucking impossible on casual mode? And why do the flame guys spawn on top of you? And why doesn’t the game drop more money? These questions should probably be answered since they all make the game less fun than it can be. Games are supposed to be fun, right? If not fun, entertaining. Difficult can be fun. Unfairly difficult never is.