Difficulty Played: Easy/Normal/Endless Mode
Mild spoilers ahead!
The zombie apocalypse happens somehow and all hell breaks loose in America. You’re stranded somewhere killing random zombies and you eventually run out of ammo. A former priest comes along and kills the rest before you get eaten. He is generous enough to give you a ride to find your friends in Washington, DC and let you ride in his car. So he escorts you to his 1950 Ford Woody car and you truck it to DC rather quickly. From there you gather supplies, your remaining friends, and escape DC before it gets blasted by a nuclear bomb.
The story is pretty much Oregon Trail, except it has zombies. So it does well being a complete homage to the original. Just like the original you’re going from one side of America to the other in search of a better life, uh, without zombies. This game has all the weird quirks and exploration the original had, but with more character. Much of the random dialogue has been updated to reflect today’s culture. Like some of the random encounters spout “Someone farted” in the car. Another are reflective in the random encounters. A couple encounters are blatant references to South Park or Zombieland. All are funny and give a light hearten tone to the game, unlike most zombie games.
The only thing that’s weird is the random boss fights. You don’t get anything for defeating them and some range from easy to impossible to kill. So they’re kind pointless to be in the game. Two random encounters are while you’re scavenging. One is a pack of wolfs that walk toward you at the same pace a zombie does and then crouches and jumps at you. They are really easy to kill (5 bullets) and really easy to avoid. The one I don’t understand is the zombie bear. I shot it more then 20 times and it didn’t die.
Then there are the random encounters while you’re driving. You might run into some zombie deer that are running from something and run forward along side your car while you’re driving. This one doesn’t many any sense to have in the game at all. This is simply based on the fact that: A) if deer were dead they wouldn’t be running at 60 mph and B) the animation gives you the impression they are herding in the THOUSANDS behind you. If that was true you’d be screwed no matter what you did.
The only random boss fight that DOES make sense you encounter less then all the others. When you leave some towns you’ll be followed by a certain number of bikers who want to rob/kill/whatever you. This makes more sense considering people are crap and many of them do have means to take you out or speed up to your cars current speed. Still there seems to be little to no reason for these boss battles.
Then there have been minor upgrades from the original. Like the car has a upgrade system that allows you, your party, or the car to get certain perks. A mini-vegetable garden prevents the group from starving completely. A solar panel upgrade still lets the car run, regardless if you have a battery in it or not. Other perks consist of fighting or scavenging perks.
The fighting perks are more reasonably priced (only $80) and are sporadically offered by trainers in the towns you visit. These are great, but if you stack them in the right order then you are pretty much invincible and the challenge to the game disappears quickly. Like there’s a boost where you can find food and money faster while scavenging. So you can easily get over 2000+ oz of food quickly and more then $600+ within a few days and wading out the large zombie groups in your area and re-scavenging the area.
Also the games in the extras menu just don’t make any sense to have. One lets you view all the grave stones you encountered in the game. Big woop. It would be one thing if they were funny, but many aren’t. Another option is to enable tweets during your gameplay. That, to me, seems kinda stupid. You might as well tweet you sat on your ass and wasn’t productive for a few hours. Because surely that attracts the ladies: being a lazy lard ass.
A side game in the extras menu is called Clements Quest. It doesn’t seem to have a point other then to drive to the other side of the nation and back. I haven’t made it back to DC, but it’s difficult when the rate that group members randomly catch diseases or dysentery is tripled. It is actually harder then the normal game itself. Multiple things seem to switch from real time use (like food or health deterioration) to a countdown clock. So you run out of everything rather quickly.
The other is Endless mode. You pretty much play Normal mode forever in order to get points. It’s fun, but after the first dozen random encounters that tell you someone farted or someone got bit by a zombies then it gets really repetitious. It’s also infuriating that these pop ups can come 4, or more, at a time. This stop the car from moving completely and cripples the flow of the game. So you can have a group member break his arm, get bit by a zombie, tell a story to the group, die, and then a dozen other things happen before you’re able to move again.
The controls are completely easy to master, just like the original. When you scavenge for food, or search for lost items, you use your W S A D keys to walk and use your mouse to pull backwards and shoot. Also it reminds you what the controls are each time you change modes between regular char/inventory/group management screens to hunting/scavenging/defending screens. Shooting is probably the only frustrating thing to do in the game. The hardest thing is judging the distance between the enemy and the way you point your gun, especially if they are far away. So if you are a little to the left or right with your mouse you can easily miss your target and get attacked. It takes a little while to get use to it. Other then that there isn’t aren’t many controls to remember.
The graphics are smooth at almost every level I put them at. So I don’t see why there are so many different options considering they are just 8 bit graphics. Yeah sometimes they look like they are 16-bit. Many of the towns are well rendered and have inside jokes before you enter the town screen. There isn’t much to say about them in all honesty. It’s retro quality is fun to look at and doesn’t wear on the eyes like today’s graphics. However the glitches are probably at their worst here. There are many times where the road completely disappears. Other times when you’re shooting the line that stems from your character telling you where you’re shooting too completely disappears and you have to restart the game either by shutting it down or starting a whole new game. This is a kinda big thing considering, as stated before, shooting is one of the hardest things to do in the game and if you are a hair off you’ll completely miss your target.
This game is pretty much a ‘you get what you put into it’ kinda game. If you want you can play it FOREVER like Harvest Moon, or Animal Crossing, or you can play it just enough to get the achievements. It’s fun, but all the mini-games while crossing through America get repetitive sometimes. Also its a game of random chance. Sometimes you can make it across the country with little to no trouble. Other times you’ll be swarmed by zombies and your entire group will get infected or die of starvation within the first few landmarks. Heck there’s even a random encounter where a bandit kidnaps one of your group members.
This for some will just be a rehash for a quick buck. They can think that for all I care, but it’s still a fun game. Yes it still has some of the same elements and themes as Oregon Trail, but it has it’s own witty charm. The multiple movie/video game/etc. references are great. The low rez graphics are a great nostalgia trip to a art style that helped found modern gaming. All in all it’s fun and worth the $5.