Stylistic throwback games appear to be all the rage these days. Zombie Night Terror, from developer NoClip, is another title fighting for attention in amongst the pixelated crowd. Drawing inspiration from Lemmings, featuring an 8-bit art style and throwing zombies into the mix – because we certainly don’t have enough zombies around these days, right? – Zombie Night Terror certainly ticks a lot of generic boxes. Fortunately, it does a lot more than simply recycle these oft-used parts.
Zombie Night Terror starts by inviting the player to inject a random civilian with a drug called ‘Romero’ (an obvious but nevertheless amusing joke). Subsequently, everyone gets infected and the apocalypse is well and truly underway.
The gameplay is simple but effective. Essentially the game follows the same formula as Lemmings: the player controls a bunch of zombies and must find a way to navigate their horde around a particular level in order to accomplish set objectives. Typically end goals are to reach an exit or kill civilians, but extra goals are also available which add to the strategic challenge of each level.
Individual zombies, in and of themselves, will meander forwards until otherwise directed. They will stroll obliviously into doors, drops and the gunfire of uninfected humans unless the player is able to devise an appropriate strategy for their survival. Simply marching forward without any thought or planning as to what potential pitfalls lie ahead will lead to serious loss of undead life. The player must consider each step in advance, and figuring out the puzzles on offer in each level – each of which offer multiple routes to success – is fun and satisfying.
As the game progresses, the player unlocks new ‘abilities’ for their zombies. Zombies can be sacrificed for DNA, which unlocks other powers such as the ability to create an ‘overlord’ zombie (allowing the player to use one zombie to direct their remaining horde in a particular direction) or a self-destruct option (which allows the player to blow up a zombie in order to break through a wall).
Left for dead.
Initially the game is pretty easy, however the difficultly spikes substantially later on and certain levels are overly long and complex. On its surface, Zombie Night Terror should afford good replay value, but I had little motivation to return to completed levels despite the extra challenges on offer in each stage.
The narrative, such as it is, comes in the form of news updates accessed via TVs dotted around each level. These were, in my opinion, unnecessarily reductive and distracting from the main gameplay. I’m not certain there was a requirement for a background story – the introduction, in which a random civilian gets infected by a new street drug and then zombies take over, would have sufficed. The TV updates also provide the player with instructions on how to use new power-ups, which sometimes leads to vital information getting lost in the mix.
With the gameplay being by far the best thing about Zombie Night Terror, I almost feel as though there was no need to overcomplicate things: the odd tongue-in-cheek reference and old-school shout out would have sufficed (such as naming the drug ‘Romero’).
Zombie Night Terror could have easily been another tired repetition of a pretty played out tune, so credit is due to NoClip for creating a genuinely fresh game that has an energetic feel to it.
The art direction astutely compliments the gameplay and the self-referential, retro-infused style of Zombie Night Terror. It is a title that feels a lot like a postmodern love letter to games of a bygone era.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.