The being-chased-by-zombie genre might well have run its natural course now, but that hasn’t stopped seasoned Minis developer Halfbrick from giving it one last hurrah. And when the protagonist of said game is a chain-smoking, quiff-sporting gun for hire with a knowing smile bigger than his gatling gun it’s a final goodbye to a pigeonhole that won’t ever recover from a brilliantly executed swipe at everything that’s come before.
Steakfries, the 80s throwback with a one-liner for everything, is actually genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, his wickedly dry sense of humour shining through the brilliantly written script. It might all be delivered via lines of text at the foot of the screen but the timing is impeccable and the dialogue between the player and the various other characters is a joy to read. It’s hard not to imagine a grizzled Australian accent reading out the words, too, which would naturally befit the developers.
The story, such as it is, is more of a means to an end to enable Steakfries to visit various parts of the globe over a series of disparate time zones, and thus amongst the hordes of AI-deficient zombies are phantom Sphinxes, a van full of undead mobsters and the gem of the bunch: zombie T-rex. The latter is definitely my personal highlight, his boss-battle arrival (and subsequent dispatch by bullet, grenade and shot) packed with belly laughs.
Each section has three smaller areas before you get to the climactic confrontations, and unlimited retries (at the expense of point multipliers) are given for each areas, so your three lives – each of which have a comfortable auto-recharging buffer – will last you plenty. In fact, the game actually isn’t that hard (or long) and thus the challenge (as with Halfbrick’s Blast Off!) is to play for combos and high scores, with even the game’s credits reminding you of your achievements.
Visually it’s a treat. If the Bitmap Brothers were still pouring hours into Deluxe Paint in 2010 they’d come up with something akin to the 16-bit era graphics that grace Age of Zombies. Pixel sharp, decently animated and full of character, with some lovely touches to the level design that make me wish the Amiga was still in charge of video game progress. The music is great too, matching the level’s theme and punctuated with decent sound effects and various voice samples.
The game itself might be fairly short, but repeated playthroughs are backed with the game’s survival mode, the purist’s way to set about ridding the world of shambling zombies. One live is all you get, which means the game’s various pickups (which include a rapid-fire SMG, a shotgun and a rotating minigun complete with spin-up delay) become even more important as the tension ramps up with each encroaching wave of the undead. Again, high scores are determined by chaining together kills.
Whilst infinitely better than the other similar game on the Minis service, Age of Zombies isn’t without a couple of issues. The controls (d-pad or stick to move, face buttons to fire) are a little tricky to get to grips with at first and the right trigger, promoted by the tutorial seems redundant, especially when you have to use the left trigger for secondary weapons (like grenades).
Likewise, although I’m all for a focused set of rules, Age Of Zombies is over a little too quickly and the price tag – £3.99 – is perhaps a little higher than I’d have prefered, especially given the length of time I’ve gotten out of Echoes and Blast Off from the same stable. Whether the top-billing price was set in anticipation of a sale I don’t know, but £2.49 would have suited better and perhaps put it under the all-important impulse buy barrier.
- Lovely graphics
- Fantastic sense of humour
- Not the longest Minis game
- Perhaps priced a little too high
Regardless, Age Of Zombies is a real laugh. It’s expertly produced, oozes charisma and energy and the characterisation is sublime. Whatever Barry Steakfries does next, I’m there, so let’s hope Halfbrick have more wisecracking one-liners for their new mascot in the future because there’s a huge amount of scope for this zombie killer to find his way into all kinds of games.
Let’s just leave the zombie genre alone now though, hey guys?