Attack Of The Zombie Lemmings
HIGH Zombies vs Donkey Kong!
LOW Spending an hour trying to figure out how to defeat a room full of switches.
WTF “Your challenge: Kill Daft Punk”
‘Lemmings with zombies’ is such a deceptively simple pitch that I’m shocked it’s taken this long for someone to make it a reality. Set in a black & white world with pixel-art graphics, Zombie Night Terror tasks the player with turning the whole world into undead horrors, one torn-out throat at a time. Opposing the army of the dead are mad scientists, drug dealers, tenacious survivors, and even a pesky super-mutant who just won’t stay down.
The game takes place on a 2D field, with the player having limited control over a group of zombies. Objectives tend to fall into two broad categories—reach a certain location, or kill a certain number of foes. These aren’t the most complicated tasks, but the game offers so many variations on them and in such a large number of intricately designed stages that it has no trouble delivering 40 different levels which manage to feel completely unique.
There are a lot of tools at the player’s disposal to support their zombies—turning them into sprinters, mutating them into three different special types, and even using projectile vomit to infect prey at long range. These elements are gradually worked in over the game’s four chapters, and I’ve rarely seen a developer do a better job of teaching the complexities of their game. Zombie Night Terror is littered with mini tutorial levels, each one set up to make players grasp a new skill or trick while moving the story forwards and linking things together.
This brings me to the narrative flow, and it’s ZNT‘s best feature. While it may be strange to praise a puzzle game’s story, the developers have accomplished something incredible here—they’ve made a puzzler where each challenge works as a piece of a story.
The tale begins with a simple zombie outbreak, and the various tasks that make up the ensuing levels are all formed by characters believably reacting to the situation. After the player gets a horde going, the police swoop in and crack down, and suddenly ZNT transforms from a slaughtering simulator to one about trying to keep a precious few zombies alive until they can regroup and find new prey. None of these puzzles are arbitrary or sloppily designed—each one moves the story forward in an interesting way. This is a rare accomplishment, and Zombie Night Terror does it better than any game since The Lost Vikings.
ZNT isn’t without flaws, however. The puzzles tend to resist experimentation and free-thinking, and generally require the player to figure out a specific path around a given obstacle. Some of these solutions are far from intuitive, and more than once I found myself beating my head against a level for over an hour.
The controls are also more difficult to deal with than they ought to be—it’s tough to select a specific zombie out of large groups, which forces the player to watch them wander around until one pulls away from the crowd so that it can be manipulated. Management is also made difficult by the fact that the game automatically un-pauses each time a mutation is applied to a zombie. Complicated techniques for beating some levels require players to transform a number of zombies simultaneously, and the only way to accomplish this is to constantly pause and un-pause over and over again. It’s two steps more complicated than it had to be, for no reason I can see.
Zombie Night Terror is a fantastic experience, and rarely do developers manage to make such perfect use of a setting when building a game. This isn’t just a puzzle game that happens to be zombie-themed, it’s literally a zombie puzzle game, where all of the challenges and tasks flow naturally from the concept, constantly expanding and elaborating on the core idea. Yes, it’s fair to sum Zombie Night Terror up as Lemmings With Zombies, but from that jumping off point it accomplishes incredible things.
Disclosures: This game is developed by NoClip and published by Gambitious. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 40 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: This game is not rated by the ESRB, but contains M-level content, as well as nudity, blood and gore, drug use, alcohol use. The game is a non-stop orgy of ultraviolence. The player is in charge of turning people into zombies, either by infecting them with a drug that makes them vomit up their guts, or simply having other zombies tear them apart. There are also many instances of crude humour, as well as a level set partially at a strip club where everyone is naked. It’s all pixel art, sure, but this is absolutely not for children.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: The game features no vital audio cues—all you’ll be missing out on are the sound effects that can tell you when something important has happened offscreen, such as collecting a DNA barrel or some zombies being killed by a surprise attack—but keeping a close eye on the zombie counter will help minimize problems that creates.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options. Also, the blood is red, and the venom zombies spit is green, so that could possibly create some confusion for you later in the game.