Ah, the Indie Game.
Nothing intrigues, impresses and disappoints me as regularly as the random offerings that have been saturating the Xbox Live Marketplace. Like the unspeakable liquid that bubbles up from a broken septic pipe, a vast majority of the titles on display stink. A lot. It’s quite possible they’ll give you dysentery, too.
That’s not to say the Indie Games tab should be ignored. Far from it, actually. Sure there’s an awful lot of crap to wade through, but there are some real treasures to be found hiding among the, uh… waste. Not only are some of these games “good,” some manage to barrel past “great” and into “Fan-Freakin’-Tastic” territory. The fact that almost none of them go for more than $5 doesn’t hurt either.
On the surface (and beneath the surface, and on any ethereal planes it might inhabit) I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1 is a bare-bones Twin Stick Shooter. There are a handful of different weapon types (with the flamethrower being the best overall, of course) and some defense items. You use them to kill zombies, among other things. That’s about it.
What makes Z0MB1ES worth playing is the fact that it’s both simple and complicated. The core mechanics are about as easy to grasp as they come. You shoot zombies, pick up weapons and items, shoot more stuff, and try not to die. While the enemy waves get larger, and new enemy types are thrown into the mix (curse you, smiley-faced worm things!), it never really reaches that “Oh CRAP!” stage of overwhelming. Or at least that’s what you’ll be thinking until the game kicks you in the teeth.
Everything starts out simple enough, sure. You might find yourself chuckling along with the satirical theme song that includes lines like, “Welcome… To mah GAAAAaaaame. I put ZOOOOOOOOOOOOMBIIIIEEES IIIIN IIIIIT… So you’ll plaaaaaaaay.” Or maybe you’ll be too busy focusing on the zombies to notice. Either way, once the action picks up and the music begins to peak, the true nature of the beast is revealed. That is to say, a lot of crap gets thrown on-screen in an attempt to mess with your eyes and get you killed.
It’s an interesting design choice, actually. Rather than just throwing more/stronger enemies at you (which happens anyway), the game tries to visually confuse you. Sometimes you’ll have a horde of zombies chasing you while words flash on the ground and lasers zap across the screen. Other times you’ll have strobes and other lights to contend with. It works pretty well, all things considered, and it’s synced up to the music perfectly.
When all is said and done, I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1 is just a bare-bones budget shooter. There’s local multiplayer for up to four people, but no online play. There’s no real variety to the game other than shooting different guns at different moving objects. However, what it lacks in originality it makes up for with tight controls, fun power-ups and a very tongue-in-cheek presentation.
(I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1 – Developer: Ska Studios/James Silva. Publisher: Microsoft. Available on Xbox Live Indie Games for 80 Microsoft Points/$1. New to CFD!’s reviews/Fragments? Read our explanations here and here.)