When you think about it, zombies and lemmings – of the green-haired, blue-robed variety – have quite a lot in common. They march implacably toward their goal, lack all real sense of self preservations, and have a penchant for human flesh. OK, so maybe not the last one, but it’s in mixing the gameplay of the classic Lemmings with the theme of a cheesy 80s zombie apocalypse movie that Zombie Night Terror came to be.
Unlike most zombie games, you’re masterminding the zombie outbreak, manipulating the growing zombie hordes to your will, and stopping them from aimlessly shuffling back and forth. Your average zombie has little idea what set of stairs to wander up and which doors to break down, let alone whether or not it should smash up that power generator that’s making such a racket, so it’s up to you to give them little pointers and head them in the right direction to wipe out all of mankind.
The first zombies in this particular outbreak come from a bad batch of drugs – dubbed Romero by the mad scientist that cooked it up – landing you and your undead right in the middle of the wrong part of town. It’s from this drug-inducement that you get the first ability, to infect a person of your choosing and turn them into a zombie, letting them loose to lightly nibble on others and turn them to your cause. If you’re of the thinking that zombies should remain the classic slow paced shamblers, then this is a disappointing sign of things to come for you, but it’s also the first layer of strategy and puzzle solving that the game gradually builds upon.
Delivered by cheesy little news reports on TVs in the world – the ticker tape stories are fun to sit and read for a few minutes – you’re gently pushed in the right direction with how to use each new ability that you get, which come in a three kinds. In addition to the limited use ability to turn humans, you have those which mutate zombies into a few different forms and those which make them perform an action, such as sprinting, jumping and exploding.
Crawlers can climb up walls and go through small gaps, while the Tanks can soak up damage and smash through weakened walls, but the Overlords are the most ingenious. To start with, they seem like they’re the standard blockers from Lemmings, but you soon learn that they can be used to tell any zombie that goes past to leap in a certain direction or sprint, and do so much further that they can do on their own. Naturally, these cost more of your resources to use.
You’ll need all the abilities at your disposal, because the human survivors are often surprisingly competent at defending themselves. Sure, there’s more than a few helpless souls who will run away and cower in a corner, but as soon as you encounter someone with a gun, a burly looking bouncer, riot and SWAT police, you need both weight of numbers and a little ingenuity with the use of your abilities to get close enough and kill them.
The pause button is your friend, letting you look around and think for a few moments or absolutely micromanage a situation at hand. The game isn’t all that overwhelming at normal speed – fast forward is another matter – but stopping the action gives you an edge. That’s important because it can be a split second between being able to trigger a zombie explosion and that zombie having its head exploded by a bullet, and playing carelessly drains your supply of Romero, though you can thankfully sacrifice zombies to get some back, if you can’t get to a power up barrel.
It’s all quite stylishly black and white, with certain items highlighted in colour, the red spatter of blood, and the various power up barrels leant an attention grabbing green glow, but the chunky pixel art won’t be to everyone’s liking. Zoomed out and viewing as much of the level as possible it works well, but zoom all the way in and it just looks like a mess of grayscale squares. The cutscenes that often appear between levels just about toe this line, accompanied with gibberish voices to the lightly amusing dialogue.
Split into four chapters of ten levels each – a fifth set of levels is planned as DLC, with level creation tools also in the works – there’s a really nice progressions through various tropes from 80s sci-fi and horror. It shifts from one setting to the next nicely, and there’s the occasional odd-ball level that really changes the feel of the task ahead of you and makes for a nice change of pace, and there’s always bonus objectives to aim for.
Some of these work better than others, and while many levels let you play fast and loose with the zombies at hand, others require you to painstakingly manage their every move. Again, being able to pause is your friend when you only have a single Crawler and you need to make a particular jump. You’re given little leeway to fail, with little in the way of checkpointing your progress, meaning that you have to go all the way back to the start of a level if you got your timing wrong, or find yourself running out of zombies. It can border on the annoying and frustrating at times, with an element of trial and error shuffling in, but that’s all part and parcel for this particular style of game.
Plotting the downfall of the human race is a rare treat in videogames, and there’s a lot of fun to be had in bringing this to pass in Zombie Night Terror. The zombie apocalypse by way of Lemmings, NoClip have done a great job of mixing their inspirations into something new and imaginative.
Version Tested: Windows PC