Title: Escape From Zombie City
Developer/Publisher: Tom Create
Release Date: October 10, 2013 (NA)
If you’re burned out on zombies, I sympathize. They’re everywhere now: movies, games and fairytale mashups. The age of terrible zombie everythings, which started innocently enough with the awful Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green, is in full swing now. Luckily, Tom Create’s Escape from Zombie City, despite the corny title, is good enough to not qualify for the garbage heap that even titles from well known horror franchises (cough, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, cough) got tossed on. This is not thanks to its simple, cliche story but to its straight-up shooter gameplay. The game was released in Japan in June 2012 and spent almost a year and a half before it was localized for the North American eShop. Given the great gameplay and the low price, I had to wonder what took so long.
The story is of a soldier who gets left behind in a zombie-infested city when the military clear out and decide to bomb the place, so he has to shoot his way out before the military blast the city with him in it. You have a ten to twelve minute time limit to clear each level before the bomb explodes. If your life drains out you can continue if you have enough time left to ‘pay’ for continuing.
Escape From Zombie City is very much like an arcade game. One of the first things you should do if you play it is change the controls to Type B in the options, as they work much better, letting you use your right hand for choosing weapons as well which is in Type A done by the left hand which causes problems in moving and changing weapons at the same time, since you move with the circle pad. With Type B controls, you use the Y button to fire, A to switch to the handgun – which is your default weapon has infinite ammo – and the B and X buttons to switch weapons in your inventory displayed on the upper screen.
There are different types of zombies. First are the regular zombies who are the normal stupid ones who don’t notice you until you walk almost into them and are only dangerous if there’s a large number of them. Second are the zombiefied policemen and soldiers, who drop shotgun and SMG pickups when you kill them. Then there are chemist zombies, who explode when you shoot them, and zombies which have a timer over their heads and explode when it reaches zero. There are also old-men zombies who only die from explosive attacks and revive after a while if you shoot them. The most dangerous, though, are agile zombies, who notice you immediately, move very fast and can swarm you very quickly. If a zombie grabs you, you move the circle pad around to get free and damage some of the zombies around you that way. There are civilians you have to rescue before the zombies get to them, and all levels have an additional objective which affects your rank at the end of the level, such as rescuing all civilians, killing a set amount of zombies or completing the level without taking damage. This last one I always failed. But these objectives, although they can usually be done just as you go along with minimal additional effort required (except in aforementioned last objective) are satisfying to complete. Each level has a locked door which you have to get the key for to complete the level. This key can be anywhere – out in the open or hidden in destructible environmental objects, for example. Some of the later levels demanded quite some backtracking to find the key.
There are five chapters of five levels each, and the game’s story mode is quite short, taking only about two hours to beat. Because of its arcade-style gameplay, though, and the Endless mode – which lets you pick a level, weapons and lets you go on to get the highest score you can – its replay value is high. The visuals are simple and probably wouldn’t even challenge a 20-year-old arcade machine, but the art style is nice and the number of zombies that the game could handle on-screen without any slowdown was impressive. The sound was fine, but not very memorable in any respect.
Interestingly, Escape From Zombie City has no 3D effect at all. The 3D slider is disabled while you’re playing the game. The reason for this is that the action takes place between both the 3D screen and the touch screen – they’re both treated as one big screen – so a 3D effect could have made it imbalanced, especially considering the 3D screen is wider than the touch screen to begin with.
Only the story is what I have a real complaint with. The story is very simple and side characters are made up on the spot and are dropped from the story just as easily. The ending was sudden and left a lot of things unexplained – although that could be done on purpose, for a sequel. Return to Zombie City, anyone?
Overall Score: 8/10