Downloaded Burn, Zombie, Burn! from the PlayStation Network a few days ago, and I'm quite done with it now. Honestly, I really don't understand how he can be so hard to make a game about killing zombies. It seems like an absolutely simple thing to do, yet I can't think of a game that has nailed it. Burn, Zombie, Burn! is no different.
Basically, the game is like Robotron 2084 or Smash TV at heart. One hero, hordes of zombies, and a bunch of weapons on one screen. The difference between Burn, Zombie, Burn! and those two is that that those two are classics—I sincerely doubt that anyone will remember Burn, Zombie, Burn! existed in six months, let alone a few decades.
Although I will admit being disappointed that there was only an Arcade and Challenge mode (No story mode here. Bah.) the game would have been just fine regardless except for the fact that the developers made some really unusual choices that have a significant, depressive effect on gameplay.
For example, it's the standard these days that intense shooters implement the twin-stick formula. Move with one stick, shoot with the other. There's no denying that it works. In Burn, Zombie, Burn!, the developers have mysteriously avoided this control scheme and went with something completely different: a choice between shooting in the direction you're moving or computer-assisted auto-aim.
Can you find Waldo in this picture?
I really don't see any benefit to this setup, and the decision to go with these controls seems more like an effort to not be like other games, rather than anything that really dovetails with what's happening onscreen. Shooting in the direction you're moving is a death sentence with the absurd number of zombies on your tail, and although the auto-aim is deadly effective, you can't single out specific targets with it. During my time in the game, there were endless instance when I wanted to hit one specific zombie in a crowd in order to trigger a death-averting explosion, and just couldn't do it.
The other really bizarre choice on the part of the developers was to overcomplicate what should really be a very simple formula. I mean, killing zombies with a variety of weapons—do you really need anything else? Instead, the game is based on score and the only way to get into the absurdly high upper tiers is to work the oddly thick system that's in place.
(Stay with me, this gets a little confusing…)
The point of the game is to earn a high score. Killing zombies straightaway earns next to nothing, and the only way to rack up big numbers is to get a high score multiplier and eliminate large numbers of them simultaneously via explosions.
Farming TNT powerups
Killing normal zombies rewards the player with either life-ups or worthless TNT. In order to make TNT effective, TNT-ups must be collected by killing zombies that are on fire.
Setting zombies on fire with a torch gives a score multiplier. Killing zombies on fire rewards the player with vital TNT-ups needed to take out large masses and rack up points, but it also lowers the score multiplier at the same time.
Still following? Instead of crafting fast, reflexive action or just good, old-fashioned zombie-killing, Burn, Zombie, Burn! becomes all about running around and dispatching normal zombies to get life-ups as needed, then setting more zombies on fire, harvesting the TNT power-ups, setting more zombies on fire again, and then detonating them en masse. Keep going until you hit 25,000,000 points.
In practice, I found that this system felt very cumbersome and tedious, and really kept me out of the game in the sense that I was constantly trying to farm power-ups and then re-farm them if I died, instead of going to that reflexive flow state that something like Geometry Wars or Smash TV can bring me to. Add in the frustration of the unconventionally ineffective controls and a real difficulty in being able to visually locate power-ups or navigate with precision thanks to the extremely cluttered playfields, and the end result is something that seems like it should be a lot more fun than it actually is.
Still a zombie fan, but not a fan of Burn, Zombie, Burn!
Nice try, but Bruce Campbell, you ain't
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Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.
Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway