Developer: Paw Print Games
Release Date: 12/09/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4/Playstation VR (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
2D side-scrolling brawlers have always been a favourite of mine ever since my days of playing Streets of Rage and Golden Axe in my younger years. There’s just something about them that works, with the simplistic gameplay mechanics allowing you to pound down a ton of enemies as you work through a great variety of fantasy, sci-fi, and modern locales across the genre.
Sadly, you don’t really see too many of them these days, with the 3D era certainly taking the limelight across the last few generations of consoles. Still, there have also been a few releases in the genre here and there, with Bloody Zombies from Paw Print Games and nDreams being the latest release I’ve had the chance to play. It comes with a unique, modernised hook though: the game can be fully played in VR.
Bloody Zombies sends you through a zombie-filled London as you look to smash the undead to pieces and reach safety – you know, the usual scenario in a zombie apocalypse. You’ll take on the role of one of four stereotypically British characters, each of whom has their own unique personality and incredibly cockney accent. The story is mainly told through comic book style scenes and in fairness it offers a lot more of a narrative than a lot of other games in the genre; it won’t do enough to make you feel particularly invested in the game world or what is happening, but it’s still a nice touch to see this extra bit of personality added to each location and its characters.
As a 2D side-scrolling brawler alone, Bloody Zombies does nothing special – it’s very traditional, with basic attacks and varying types of enemies to take down throughout each level. There is the combo system where you’re able to juggle enemies as you unleash attacks on them, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. It does have its VR support (more on that later), but those who’re limited to simply playing it on a TV screen might feel a little underwhelmed by what it has to offer. I need to emphasise that nothing in the game is ever bad though (in fact, I did have fun playing the game), but rather that it doesn’t do anything you wouldn’t have seen before in all the hundreds of side-scrolling brawlers that have released over the years.
Each character has different special attacks that they can perform that pack a bit more punch than your standard moves, though they’re slightly awkward to perform. Rather than simply using one button, you instead have to use different button combinations in a similar vein to a fighting game like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. Now I quite enjoy my fighting games so having to learn different button inputs wasn’t the end of the world – however, Bloody Zombies’ demand for pinpoint accuracy when attacking enemies made everything feel a lot clumsier. It just seemed like a peculiar design choice by the developers, especially since the special moves are vital to overcoming a few of the game’s puzzles.
It’ll take you awhile to work through the game’s campaign, with a fairly lengthy selection of levels available all based around different locations in London – the opening mission sees you heading over London Bridge with Big Ben and the London Eye in the distance for example, so there’ll be plenty of recognisable landmarks on show if you go looking for them. Each level isn’t particularly long in length, but there’s this artificial feeling of longevity that comes from the fact that enemies are loaded with a high health count. It’ll take a fair bit of pummeling before enemies fall, so you’ll find that even the shortest of levels will take a bit longer than you’d think to beat. I’m nit-picking a bit here, but I’d have preferred it if there were just more enemies with a lower health count; I’d have had more fun beating down a lot of enemies rather than watching the same ones get knocked down and rise again all the time (especially since you can’t hit a grounded enemy).
Whilst as a side-scrolling brawler alone Bloody Zombies doesn’t do anything special, it’s the game’s clever use of VR implementation that makes it really stand out. I’ll admit that I thought that a 2D side-scrolling brawler seemed like an unconventional choice of game to play in virtual reality, but I was pleasantly surprised by what was on offer; in fact, it’s made it a little difficult to look at other games in the genre in the same way.
Basically, when playing in VR you’ll get a huge diorama-like view of each level; you can literally see the finish line if you look to the right. It also means you can get up close and personal with the action, with the player able to lean their head in and look at what’s going on with this unique perspective that clearly shows the game is 2D even when it doesn’t quite feel like it. Don’t get me wrong, the character sprites still look flat and 2D, but there’s this strangely impressive sense of depth with the world that makes it feel completely different to what you’d be used to.
I’ll be honest, after I played Bloody Zombies in VR, I couldn’t go back to playing it on a traditional TV. It’s not just that everything just looks a million times better, but it also felt easier to play; Bloody Zombies demands precision when attacking your enemies so the enhanced viewpoint makes it a lot easier to make sure your attacks are going to land.
No matter how you play Bloody Zombies, it’s always a lot better with other players. The game features four player co-op that can be played both locally and online, whilst it also lets one player use the VR headset and the others use the TV screen if you prefer. If you head online you can all use VR headsets though, which is ultimately the best way to play. Being able to share being in awe of the game’s VR stylings with friends whilst bashing down on zombies is a hell of a lot of fun though, and something I really appreciated about the game.
As a 2D side-scrolling brawler alone Bloody Zombies does nothing special, but when played with a VR headset its revolutionary to the genre. Seeing everything from this new unique perspective and being able to really take the world in was fascinating, and if I’m being honest I think I’ll struggle to look at other games in the genre in the same way again.
If you’ve got a VR headset then I’d definitely recommend checking the game out, especially if you’ve got friends to play with. If you haven’t got one, Bloody Zombies doesn’t really offer enough to blow you away – it’s a competent side-scrolling brawler, but that’s all.