Saturday, October 29, 2011

Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone (XBLA): "A Dual Thumbstick Zombie Shmup"

Zombie Apocalypse: NDA (Never Die Alone) is the sequel to Back Bone Entertainment, and Konami's 'Zombie Apocalypse' game of 2009. It features dual thumbstick (shmup) style gameplay, and a story that can be completed in either singleplayer or multiplayer modes. Up to four players can join in on the zombie shooting spree in multiplayer mode, or you can have at it alone switching between characters as you make your way across the zombie infested locations. There are four unique characters to play as in the game. There is a gamer dude named 'Jeremy', a female weapons specialist named 'Alma', A youth minister named 'Father Bill', and a British/Australian rapper named 'Def Money'. Each character plays their own special part in this apocalyptic zombie tale that takes place in the various locales of Canada. There's lots of humor to enjoy, zombie swarms to neutralize, and some major moolah to collect in this RPG driven shoot 'em up.

The four available characters in'Zombie Apocalypse: NDA' are what truly brings the game to life. Each of the characters carry unique weapons (Jeremy = Assault Rifle, Alma = Sniper Rifle, Father Bill = Shotgun, Def Money = Dual Pistols), and have character specific special moves (Jeremy = Rapid Fire, Alma = Turret, Father Bill = Healing, Def Money = Cricket Bat) that extend gameplay allowing you to survive longer/deal more damage. In order to use the special moves you must first build up the character's special meter by killing zombies. The four characters also have a throwable weapon/item that briefly distracts the zombie crowds. Jeremy's throwable weapon is an exploding teddy bear, Father Bill's is a molotov cocktail, Def Money's is a radio that plays old tunes (that you'll likely recognize ^.^), and I can't actually recall what Alma throws? Utilizing each character's moves, and switching between them will definitely extend your game progress. You can also gain money, and experience for killing zombies in each level that you complete which can be applied to each character's upgrades (weapon, throwing weapon, melee weapon, speed ...). This too will help you make it further into the game. The game also features a score system that greatly enhances your character's attributes/levels with multipliers that can be earned by killing multiple zombies without getting grabbed.

Levels in 'Zombie Apocalypse: NDA' are presented in a dark, and dreary semi-overhead view. You will find many different destructible objects some of which will give you health refills, and interactive objects that can inflict damage on the zombies as well. Your characters in the game are highlighted with a circle beneath their feet in different colors according to how many players there are, so you won't get lost. If you are playing alone there will only be one colored circle underneath the character you have chosen to play as, and the rest of the characters will be highlighted with a white circle. To be totally honest you can actually lose your character in the zombie crowds regardless of your colored marker though. There are many different  types of zombies that you will encounter as you play. They range in size, and speed from the normal/slow type to massive boss sized monstrosities. Sticking together as a group is truly the key to success in this game. If a character ever dies in the game they can be revived by a fellow teammate by repeatedly pressing the 'A' button over their body. This helps a lot in surviving the massive crowds of zombies that often surround your party.

In the end I found the game to be somewhat flawed. The singleplayer experience is pretty solid, but it is definitely difficult to complete on your own. The multiplayer is what would really make the game awesome, but it falls short due to the lagging that is most likely caused by the conflict of gamer's internet speeds. I was able to play a decent 7 rounds of co-op with one other player, but when I had three other players join in it lagged majorly. It even kicked the other three gamers out. This is a serious issue that needs to be patched in order for this game to be considered as a worthy buy by me. I also think the fact that you can lose your character in the zombie crowds regardless of your color marker is a fairly serious problem as well. I can't recommend this game considering those issues.

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