Zombies to the left of me, zombies to the right of me, zombies above, and zombies below. It would appear that over the years the dreaded zombie outbreak that has been depicted in oh-so-many deliciously atrocious B movies have surreptitiously invaded the world of the video game.
Not to be left out, Publisher Konami and developer Backbone Entertainment have released Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone (NDA) on XBLA. NDA is a sequel to Zombie Apocalypse which was released in 2009 and continues in the same co-op, top down, twin stick shooter fashion. Will this be the re-rebirth of the beasts from beyond or will you be left feeling as brain dead as the lumbering assailants you have been head-shotting since the day you learned how to hold a controller?
Environmentally Friendly - The level design in NDA is a high point in the title that gives it a little something different from the many, many budget twinstick co-op shooters. Cranes will swing wildly, jet engines will suck zombies from their boots and there are pits that will grind flesh and bone. All these environmental set-pieces can be used to take out floods of Zombies when you are being overwhelmed by their numbers, and you will be overwhelmed.
I Know Where You’ve Been - NDA is no graphical powerhouse, but for a budget title the graphics can at least be described as passable. The unique selling point for the title is the mess that is left once an area is cleared. Every Zombie you kill (or is it re-kill?) leaves a mess of blood and guts that is persistent, meaning that by the time you clear a level the streets will be transformed from an area that looks reasonably quiet and inviting to a scene resembling something from Kill Bill.
Never Die Alone - The ONLY way to play NDA is in the 4 player co-op mode with friends. Each player is asked to select one of four uniquely kitted and increasingly annoying characters (stay tuned for more details) and then let loose on either the campaign or in one of two survival modes. Co-op lifts the title above being just a mundane, repetitive shooter and really feels like the way this title is meant to be played.
ARMY OF DARKNESS
Fiddling With Yourself - The Co-op mode is a reasonable way to spend an evening but, unfortunately, the single player fails to reanimate any sort of fun whatsoever. As each member of your Zombie killing squad has a unique weapon and special attack it becomes crucial to be able to switch between characters using the LB and RB buttons. If you desperately need to drop the turret gun, to buy you some time, then you need to keep an eye on all characters on screen, while simultaneously trying to avoid the legion of the undead with whichever character the game decides it wants you to control until you stumble across the character you were looking for. Death can be upon you from the most trivial of situations and without a checkpoint system, death means starting the entire level again.
Persistently Throw Away - In an effort to keep you playing what is essentially a throw away shooter, a persistent unlocking of levels to things like a character’s gun, speed or special weapon has been added. Although commendable, I guess, the campaign outstays it welcome in the first playthrough and I defy anyone to play this game to the point of having every stat maxed out. It is just not a title that demands that sort of dedication from the player.
A Difficult Choice - Choosing a character is quite a challenge as each option has a major drawback associated. The Priest, Father Bill, carries a shotgun with his specials being the ability to heal and throw Molotov cocktails. He is probably the pick of the bunch. Def Money is an English rapper with the special ability to lure Zombies with his Boombox or go into a zombie smashing frenzy with a cricket bat. His default twin pistols are far too slow and underpowered for general play however. Alma is the token female character who has the ability to drop propane tanks and place turret guns. Like Bill, though, Alma’s Sniper is far too slow for reliable use against hordes of Zombies. All well and good when you are playing co-op but as single player options, they just don’t cut the mustard. Don’t worry though there is one decent all-rounder character...
If you are looking for a co-op Zombie slaying title then let me recommend Left 4 Dead which I would imagine you could pick up for not much more than the 800 MS points you’ll be asked to stump up for Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone. If you are looking for a decent twins stick shooter then there are so many other options that are better than this on the XBLA. However, if you and three mates are looking for a way to pass a Saturday afternoon then by all means give this a look but don’t go in expecting anything more than an average experience.
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