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.

Burn, Zombie, Burn!

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.

Burn, Zombie, Burn! Screenshot
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.

Burn, Zombie, Burn! Screenshot
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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Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been gaming since the days when arcades were everywhere and the Atari 2600 was cutting edge. So, like... A while.

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
Brad Gallaway

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5 Comments on "Burn, Zombie, Burn! fizzles"

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As has been said, if one holds down the autoaim throughout the game, it plays very similarly to Geometry Wars (With regards to the controls). I do disagree with most peoples opinion of the game, my brother-in-law and I both love it. We have all silvers now and around 1/3 gold. But it is impossible to achieve these scores without mastering the system. Some people won’t like this system, but you are virtually guaranteed to not like the game if you don’t learn it. Once again, you get a multiplier for every zombie on fire at the time of the… Read more »
By no means is this the best game ever. By no means does it contain no flaws or faults but to me it seems it has had some unfair critisisms based on its mechanics. Critism A) You cannot aim. You cannot hit what you want. Why isnt it a two stick shooter. Answer A) It is. Its just not the same two stick shooter everyone is used to. As stated – no auto-aim = shoot straight ahead. This is crucial for using the flame as it burns those ahead of you. Auto-Aim on = picks the closes target. This is… Read more »
Brad Gallaway
>>You sir, are an idiot. And you could use some manners. >>You don’t seem to understand that this is an arcade game. There’s no confusion here, I simply don’t care for the gameplay. >>The controller input does not follow any ‘standard twin-stick formula’ because it would not be effective in this game. And pray tell, in exactly what way would being able to shoot in the direction you aim be *NOT* effective? You fail to make the case. >>Also, shooting the way you’re facing is only useless until you start strafing, and auto-aiming is only difficult unless you adjust it… Read more »
You sir, are an idiot. I’m tempted to leave it at that, but I’ll do you the courtesy of explaining why I’ve come to this conclusion; You don’t seem to understand that this is an arcade game: the game is based on score, as are all arcade games. The only way to “get into the absurdly high upper tiers” is to perform consistently and well. Like 99.9% of all games (and possibly 100% of all arcade games) persistence and skill are required to excel in the game. The controller input does not follow any ‘standard twin-stick formula’ because it would… Read more »
I’m not going to argue any of Brad’s points, simply because I feel like its a justifiable account of the game. I imagine I’ll never ever see the gold medal on any of the stages, which does suck. Especially if the gold medals are what you must achieve to unlock some of the unlockables. Seriously the points needed to unlock the gold medals seems like they were made for a maschocist. Or, maybe I’m just not very good at it. So, yeah I did have fun with the game. I’m not going to lie and say it isn’t a blast… Read more »