When Jen first told me about Atom Zombie Smasher, she heaped praise on it, which is no small thing for her. She’s very tough on games, but she said this one was brilliant. I wasn’t convinced- A tower defense game with zombies didn’t sound like it was breaking enough new ground for me to take the time. She’s yet to give me bad game advice though, so I gave it a shot. I am so happy to be wrong! Atom Zombie Smasher is so well put together it defies reason.
As Brendon said on the program, it’s really hard to get a handle on the game mechanics and just how good the presentation is from screenshots or from the video. The simple graphics interface actually ENHANCES the gameplay. It’s amazing how quickly you begin to relate to the poor scrambling yellow squares as people running for their lives from the purple block zombie hordes. Controls are intuitive ans responsive, and the pace (after the initial planning phase, natch) is so quick that this feels more like an RTS than a tower defense. Having to shift tactics and unit placement on the fly makes for some intense gameplay, especially when Zed is marching on a helpless group of prey… I really liked the idea of not having an option as to the mercenary groups I could bring with me into each battle. It made deciding what area of the map to hit next more challenging, and sometimes completely shot my plans to pieces. The combination of blind luck and good planning makes the game feel more like “real life” in that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. Of course, “real life” and “zombie attack” don’t really fit together, but you get the idea.
The tone set by Atom Zombie Smasher is wonderful. The bright, cheery color palette and the Ventures-like surf rock serve as a stark counterpoint to the truly horrific idea of a zombie infestation, with all the associated carnage. There is a great dark humor at work in this title. The vignettes between certain missions are delightfully surreal, and leave you shaking your head in awe and wonder. They have almost nothing to do with the game or the story being told, yet they’re entertaining, and I couldn’t wait for the next one to unlock.
New players really should make sure to start in casual mode. While the use of every unit is explained in detail, there really is no “tutorial” that takes you through best use of units, and the redeployment of those units. Trying to play the game on the standard difficulty throws too much at you too quickly, and can lead to frustration. Causal mode allows you to experiment with the units at a slower pace, giving you the opportunity to learn how best everything should be used in a given situation. The infection rates slowed as well. On standard difficulty, the infection can quickly get out of control if you don’t know what you’re doing, or which areas of the map to focus on. Fortunately, the difficulty settings can be easily modified to make this as easy or as challenging a game as you want.
This game is another must have. It’s definitely worth the price of admission, and a worthy addition to any gamer’s library. If you’ll excuse me, I have llama bombs to deploy…