We, at For Zombies, appreciate any video game that features zombies as the protagonist. Too often, our kind is chopped, sawed and flambéed for the sake of entertainment. We are the underdog and deserve a chance to fight back at the senseless onslaught of violence against us. Stubbs, in Rebel without a Pulse, struck a blow for the cause, but it’s been years since we’ve seen another pro-zombie game come along. We’re as excited as a horde of zombies at an orthopedic ward to review Three Dead Zed from Gentleman Squid Studio.
You are the subject of Project Z.E.D., an attempt to create the ultimate weapon. We should all take a lesson from countless movies. Any experiment involving zombies is bound to end up with a zombie on the loose and lots of blood to clean up. Sure enough, you break free and hilarity ensues. There’s an early training session in which you learn how to manage the controls. It is a platformer and they do bear some small bit of explanation, but they’re easy to pick up and the first few levels are, as you may expect, fairly straight forward.
The hand-drawn cartoonish style is endearing and enhances that retro feel of a side-scrolling 2D game. The zombies lean toward the charming side rather than scary, but make no mistake. When they tear into a hapless human, there’s a cloud of activity and plenty of blood on the walls. They may be cute, but they’re not cuddly. There is one small nitpick. When standing still the zombies appear to be breathing. Keeping them absolutely still would be rather boring, but breathing zombies just aren’t quite right. Nonetheless, I do get a kick out of the animation of a zombie running along with arms flailing and his tongue hanging to the side.
You start out as a zombie who can attack people, eat their brains, jump, climb ladders and push buttons. Come to think of it, that’s just like an average person except for the penchant for raw sweetbread. Well, you are a subject of an experiment and smarter than the typical zombie. There are two other forms you can take, each with their pros and cons. There’s a frog-like zombie that’s fast, jumps great distances and can stick to walls, but can’t take any damage and a large female brute that can take a bullet, smash through walls and pick up large objects but moves slowly. Each level presents puzzles calling for the right zombie for the job. Sometimes you need to flip a switch; other times move a filing cabinet to the right location or leap Jackie Chan-like up a set of two opposing walls.
At the end of each level there’s a cat in a tinfoil hat and a disembodied voice inside your head providing guidance and silly remarks. As you progress, more of the back story is revealed encouraging you to the next level, but here’s where it starts to go from fun to frustrating. There’s increasing call for use of the frog-like zombie and his wide leaps are out of control in spots where finesse is required. Perhaps there wasn’t enough play testing prior to release.
Still, it’s a good first offering from a new company and I look forward to the next release.