Developer: Halfbrick Studios
Publisher: BlitWorks (Vita version)
Release Date: October 28th, 2010
Available On: Mobile, Ouya, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita
Reviewer’s Note: I played this game on the PlayStation Vita. There may be differences between versions.
Halfbrick Studios is best know for their two mobile games Jetpack Joyride and Fruit Ninja. Both games take simple concepts and make them extremely addictive and fun for pick up and play situations. Age of Zombies attempts to do the same thing for twin stick shooters, but unfortunately it quickly stumbles and fails to hit any kind of fun notes.
At the start of Age of Zombies we see Doctor Brains release a bunch of zombies across various time periods. Too late to stop him, secret agent Barry Steakfries (also known as “the guy from the vastly better Jetpack Joyride”) goes to the various time periods to kill zombies. It’s supposed to be a light comedic story, but it’s let down by some truly atrocious writing. Nearly every joke misses its mark by miles and the whole thing feels it was written by a couple of teenagers trying to be funny by saying random things. It wasn’t long before I was just skipping through every cut scene to just try to have fun shooting zombies.
Sadly, there isn’t much fun in shooting zombies. As you would expect from a twin stick shooter all you really need to know is that the left stick moves and the right stick shoots. You can also use the right bumper to use whatever your secondary weapon is, usually an explosive of some sort. Each levels sees very large swarms of zombies come at you, and well… little else. The game seriously lacks enemy variety and each level is full of hundreds of zombies that basically all do the same thing: walk towards you in a straight line and attack you if you get close. Sometimes the zombies will be bigger and have more health, rarely they may shoot back at you, but overall there is very little that makes any zombie distinct. Levels quickly turn into running circles around the stage and shooting until everything is dead while Barry makes awful one liners (that often block UI elements). Each level also drags, often taking up to ten minutes just because the hoards get so big.
The only real mix ups come from boss fights, which you’ll see every third level. Bosses have unique patterns and mannerisms that at least make them interesting. A zombie samurai will teleport around the field, while the zombie don will do drive-by shootings in his car. Still, even bosses have issues. The majority of them have health bars that are just too big, dragging out the fight far longer than it needs to be. Boss stages also open up with another fight against regular zombies, which means that these stages also tend to drag, usually even longer than the already too long normal stages. To assist you with your zombie slaying the game will drop boxes of weapons around the field, but it lacks anything truly unique. SMGs and shotguns are fun, and a flamethrower looks neat, but from a developer that is always know for some rather zany power-ups, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed in Age of Zombies’ rather mundane selection.
Near the end of the game there’s a level called “We Ran Out of Ideas” and has all of its dialogue reduced to notes on what needs to be added. Although this is the jokes they make about the last few levels, I feel like it should have been somewhere at the start of the game. Age of Zombies limps out of the gate and never manages to, or even put effort to, recover.