After years and years of using video games as a medium with which I could prepare myself for an actual zombie apocalypse, Zombie Night Terror provided me with something of a conundrum. On the one hand my role as real-life human told me I should be rooting for the panicky, screaming and occasionally gun-toting folks in their quest to escape and survive the hordes. On the other, however, I found myself grinning gleefully each time a group of my zombified minions overwhelmed a trapped human and added another unwilling convert to our ranks. Zombie Night Terror provided me with some of the most rewardingly fun experiences of any game this year, showing proof that there’s more than enough life in this ageing genre yet.
The game’s indie developers at NoClip met while working for a mobile gaming company and, when they were made redundant, came up with the idea for a lemmings-style game that had players controlling hordes of zombies as their army. After two years in development, Zombie Night Terror is published by Gambitious Digital Entertainment, whose name you’ll certainly have seen if you’ve ever spent time on the Steam store. The partnership of the two teams has proved to be an immensely fruitful one if this first game is anything to go by, but what exactly is it?
Well, as previously noted, Zombie Night Terror is essentially a Lemmings-esque clone that has you controlling scores of undead minions attempting to wipe out the human race by infecting them all. The game puts a number of mutation-based tools at your disposal, allowing you to plot and scheme at the most effective ways to infect everyone in sight. Your human prey isn’t entirely helpless, of course, and they will fight back. Gun-toters roam the streets ready to blast your zombies into grey mush, while other resistance members will place traps like explosives ready for any unguided groaners to wander aimlessly over. You’ll need to be in full control of your horde at all times if you hope to achieve your nefarious goals, and that’s where the real charm of this adventure comes in.
One of the greatest things about Zombie Night Terror is that it manages to keep its activities interesting within a fairly narrow spectrum. The simple premise of infecting scores of humans could easily have gotten stale if not properly supported, but NoClip have been able to keep things fresh throughout. Through a combination of varied stages and an impressive amount of available mutations to be used, I always found that I had something new to see or try throughout the forty levels of the game.
Backdrops like a seedy nightclub or an active subway tunnel provide diverse environmental challenges, and one of the first lessons I had to learn in the game is that it’s not just the humans who are fighting back against my zombies. I lost more errant minions to falls and accidents in the first few stages than I did to shotgun blasts; I simply needed to take much better care of my army.
But while the variety of the settings an backdrops are impressive, this is nothing compared to the fun you can have with the different methods of mutation. In the very first stage you’ll just be able to infect humans in different areas and watch the horde grow, but moments later new options are opened up and the fun really begins.
Placing an overlord becomes your first essential alternative; these exalted few are your commanders on the field, imploring the other minions to travel or attack in a certain direction. Placing these in time to stop your army being decimated by an explosion is crucial, but knowing when to remove or reassign them is just as important – there are very few times when you can simply sit back and watch the infection unfold without paying attention to the fortunes of your undead army.
The additional mutations that get added to your arsenal give you new opportunities for destruction all the time, and combining these will often help you to chase the elusive bonus challenges that each stage carries. Later in the game you’ll find that you can turn members of the mindless horde into hulking beasts or even give them enough extra intelligence to have them climb ladders and reach otherwise unobtainable victims.
These combinations don’t just help you to succeed, either; they also add to the visual appeal of the game. The now-standard use of old school 8-bit graphics is possibly the only uninspired part of Zombie Night Terror, but it does provide a mostly adequate medium through which the carnage can be enjoyed. At its most basic the game looks interesting enough, but when your screen is filled with brain-hungry wanderers the constant mutations and gruesome explosions make things a little more exciting.
Understandably for a game that expects you to infect scores of humans with zombified mutations, humour also plays a big part in Zombie Night Terror. From tracking, news bulletin headlines about “rings of debris found orbiting uranus” to the quotes that pop up above the heads of unsuspecting humans, there are plenty of chuckles to be had throughout. Character design for the human models is also a good source of entertainment, and in this NoClip presents it with a flair for subtle parody and some entertaining satire of our society’s folk.
If there’s any minor complaint to be had with NoClip’s creation – and it really is a minor one – then it’s that the game isn’t challenging enough to provide players with a particularly huge amount of longevity. I very rarely found that I had to retry any failed stages, and very few of the forty levels take much time to complete. This is mitigated by the implementation of bonus challenges bringing a decent amount of replay value to the stages, however, and it has to be said that the game provides more than enough value for its meagre price. Given the minimal amount of true content that some AAA-priced titles bring to the market these days, it’s still always refreshing to see that a game can do quite a lot for its players without demanding premium output from the wallet.
As an oft-neglected sub sector of the zombie game genre, playing as the undead may not be something players are too familiar with. But, if the strength of NoClip’s first effort is anything to go by, this could be a goldmine that we see more and more developers looking to pillage as they seek originality in an ageing genre.
Zombie Night Terror is a title that takes a number of familiar gaming tropes and combines them in a way that’s fresh and entertaining enough to make something truly worth your attention. It may not be the most challenging game in the world, but a unique appeal and a genuinely entertaining style make this a contagiously fun experience. Consider me infected.
This is based on a PC copy of the game that was provided to us for review.
While well-placed mutations convert the humans to undead minions in Zombie Night Terror, the game itself could be just the infection needed to help more zombie-centric titles into the market. Controlling the groaning hordes is frighteningly fun and this is a 'must-play' for any apocalypse aficionados.