If Quentin Tarantino developed computer games, then Atom Zombie Smasher would be up there with Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. Atom Zombie Smasher, from Blendo Games, is a very clever and absorbing game that uses your brain, for a change, rather than your trigger finger.
Set in 1961 Nuevos Aires, in the midst of a Zombie apocalypse, the only thing capable of stopping the infection is you, oh and a load of mercenaries. And a selection of mines, dynamite and mortar attacks. And Zombie bait. Oh yeah, I forgot, and a nuclear orbital space station. But apart from that, it’s just down to you! On paper, this sounds easy enough – be prepared though, as you will get your butt kicked many times over the next few hours’ of play.
That’s all you need to know about the storyline, apart from the fact that it’s very well written. What you do need to do is play the game. Atom Zombie Smasher is, surprisingly, quite a monstrous game. Spread over a large territory, you have to select a city to evacuate. The cities are rated from one to four depending on their level of infestation to population ratio. Completing the higher rated cities will give you more points to upgrade your hardware – faster helicopter, more capacity, better range of sniper fire etc. But let the infection level get too high and it will move into other cities and before long you’ll find the zombies control more territory than you do. The more missions you complete and more citizens you rescue, the better your victory track looks compared to the Zombies. Beat them to the end of the victory track and you win.
See, I told you it sounds easy enough. Looking down onto a cityscape (a bit like the original GTA, but you get to see the whole city) you have to tactically place what resources you have available, such as mercenaries, gun emplacements and road blocks etc. to stop the infected zombies and rescue the citizens of the city. Only when you have carefully placed your resources and selected the helicopter pickup point, can you click ‘Ready’ and the game begins. A klaxon sounds as your helicopter prepares to land, alerting a radius of people who come rushing over to board their only salvation. However, your rescue helicopter can only hold, initially, a maximum of thirty people before it has to fly off and return a few seconds later for the next batch. Each city has a set number of evacuee’s you have to rescue. If you fall short you will have to either try again or concede a victory for the zombies. Unfortunately, during the time the rescue helicopter is away, the zombies, or Zed’s as they are called, are advancing through the streets and turning the citizens you’re supposed to be rescuing into more infected. If your drop zone becomes too infected then the helicopter pulls out and leaves the un-infected to fend for themselves and they don’t last long up against the chasing Zed’s. Weather also affects the spread of the Zed’s, for instance rain slows them down while a sunny day speeds them up.
If that wasn’t bad enough, then the game throws a random event at you like the resuce helicopter has engine trouble and doesn’t fly as fast, or your mercenaries are called off rota and you’re left with very little to defend the citizens with. Don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom, there are good random events as well. Zed’s move slower, fewer Zed’s, your snipers become better shots. You soon become used to holding your breath, waiting for the next event, then letting out a ‘phew’ when something good happens!
Occasionally you will find a city has complete infection, in which case you will have to go in and destroy all the Zed’s before nightfall, which is represented by a countdown. If you’re unfortunate enough to have only a few mercenaries and a couple of sticks of dynamite available then you’re going to be in a bit of trouble, however, some buildings glow red, indicating a major gas leak, and placing a stick or two of dynamite close to a red building and hit the button just as a huge volume of Zed’s are wandering under it allows you to sit back and watch as the fully destroyable cityscape crumbles on top of them – very satisfying, to say the least. Achieve a 100% Zed kill and you unlock the Llama bomb, capable of disinfecting an entire city. Achieve a gold medal and rescue lots of scientists and you get to unlock and purchase the equivalent of the Hand of God, which can wipe out massive numbers of Zed’s. Advance into the game more and you will eventually come across the super Zed, a giant, faster moving Zed, that can take almost everything you throw at it. Lay a Zed trap and hit him with mines, dynamite and a motor bombardment and he’ll fall, oh yeah!
Atom Zombie smasher is a great game, and who would have thought that, in this day and age, a game displaying a screen full of various coloured dots would rate so highly. That’s right, dots! Although the cityscape is very well drawn, the characters are represented by dots, purple for Zed’s (the super Zed is a BIG purple dot), white for un-infected citizens and green for your mercenaries. But don’t let that put you off. This game is all about the tactics and it’s not long before you completely forget about the dots and start to see them as what they represent.
The sound effects and music are wonderful, with cool backing tracks from the Volcanics (available on iTunes) and grunts, screams, gun fire and Hispanic orders from your mercs, they really set the tone for the game. In addition to this, you are granted a number of cartoon vignettes which tell the story from the point of view of several different characters, and it’s these that give the game that extra indie-movie-feel that makes you want to play and keep playing.
The game can be difficult, in places, but perseverance is the key. You will reach a point when the odds are stacked against you, but try the missions again and it won’t be long before you can unlock some of the big guns and really begin to claw back that territory from the Zed’s. There is so much more to the game than I can represent here – overall a superb game, with a great story, cool music and heaps of playability and what’s more, it’s cheap as chips, so go out and buy it.