The first of Sony’s “Pub Fund” releases on PSN, Burn, Zombie, Burn! is a product of an initiative for indie developers to self-publish quality titles to PSN. The title is delivered by doulesix Games, once part of Kuju Entertainment, which raises the expectations a bit – especially when considering the gems cropping up on PSN lately. Unabashedly story-free, Burn, Zombie, Burn! will have you shooting zombies ’til your thumbs give out for no reason other than the glory of it.
Equipped with a default pistol which will fire steadily with R2 or X, you are given an isometric view of the environment as you narrowly avoid the hordes of zombies. Additional weapons are scattered around the levels and include a bat, chainsaw, and shotgun (the chainsaw, while perilous to wield due to your proximity to the zombies, is very effective). A three-tiered multiplier unlocks as you use one weapon consistently, and when all three levels of the multiplier are achieved you can stomp on a big red button. This tempting device triggers a special, screen-wide damage effect including bombs, zombie-slowing rain, and a ray of protection. Pretty straightforward, but if you want to brush up on the tricks of the zombie fighting trade there is a tutorial.
At first the game’s refusal to use both sticks is frustrating; Bruce shoots where you are facing and you can lock your direction and strafe with L2. Then you discover auto-targeting with L1, and the world of zombie killing is wide open before you. X or R1 fire your weapon, Sqaure kicks (TNT, for example), and Circle detonates remote mines. R2, however, is the game’s namesake, as it lights up your torch for some good zombie ignition.
The average slain zombie will drop health (in the form of donuts or hot dogs) and items like TNT. Zombies set on fire, however, drop health packs for Daisy when protecting her in an escort mission, power-ups for items like TNT, et cetera. Additionally, lighting up a zombie will add to the combo count, and the fire will spread quickly through a pack of the undead. Since the flaming zombies are doomed, they are entirely kamikaze in their attacks. However, the fiery undead are necessary for racking up the points to unlock levels and modes. These perks are balanced against the increased hazard of a pack of igneous zombies. Weapons like the flame thrower or the Groovitron – er, I mean, “dance ray” – are a bonus and replace the standard torch. Like igniting zombies, the bonus weapons carry heightened danger for their marked rewards.
Burning zombies isn’t the extent of enemy variety. Different waves bring different challenges, like the ballerina Dancers that twirl in your direction, or the football player Rushers, that make straight for you. Exploders will blow you and anything nearby up, which can be handy in a pinch, but they rob you of the points of those kills.
The game has a style, with rock heavy audio and a cartoonish, perfectly gelled coif, we-just-came-from-the-drive-in look. It is not an aesthetic masterpiece but it works, and the load times are faster than the Rushers. Actually, it is a bit disappointing that the game is so frenzied that the only way to really appreciate the animations is to succumb to death (no way can you waste a second gawking).
Challenge Mode deviates from Arcade by fixing one level element, like a weapon, while you try to accumulate enough points to move to the next challenge. Game unlockables are alternate modes to the primary Free Play, like a Timed Mode in which you must retrieve pick-ups that add time to the clock, and Defend Daisy, in which your special lady friend waits in a car like a useless lump while you try to save her from zombies. There is no online multi-player, but there is local versus and co-op play, the latter of which would have been more fun in full rather than split-screen. The game’s statistic tracking records your total zombie kills down to your weapon-specific kills. No matter the mode, co-op or single-player, the goal is always the same: survive as long as you can while racking up as many points as possible.
Points win you medals which are what earn you the unlockables. The game’s medals are bronze, silver and gold. A bronze will earn you the three modes on the next level, while a silver gets you a special reward like concept art. Golds also give you rewards, and are the way to Dev Medals – the scores and times set by doublesix. Topping those scores is a feat belonging to a very special set. Seriously, the game is hard, and I don’t say that with any note of derision – just warning. It has that hardcore retro thing going for it, or against it, depending on how you play. The game’s replay value will only exist if you are dedicated to the challenge. If, however, you are not looking for a downloadable death wish, $10 will seem a little steep for what will end up being a difficult, rather shallow game.
Burn, Zombie, Burn! brings a fun gimmick to some old school game-play. Pandering to the shmup and zombie crowds, there is enough genuinely good game to win a following. Beyond torching the undead, however, there isn’t anything truly remarkable in the title. Despite the varying modes and simulated goals, the underlying objectives don’t change, which manages to make zombie fires downright pedestrian.