Spotlight: Over 9000 Zombies!

It’s a while since I’ve written a Spotlight piece, but then I guess it’s a while since I came across a suitable specimen. Not to denigrate the delightful digital entertainment that’s been penetrating my eyes and brain for the past few months, of course.

Well, Starscream, on with the ceremony! Over 9000 Zombies is developed by one Loren Lemcke; his first game so far as a cursory act of googling can attest. It’s an independent title, for all the cachet that “independent” still carries in these days of indie distributors (publishers by another name, shurely), Greenlight and Early Access on Steam, and various other mechanisms by which small games can become involved with big business (or, well, medium business). Still, it’s a game made by one man.

Over 9000 Zombies is a twin stick shooter with a bit of a twist, and it’s not that it features a shitload of zombies. It does have that, but so too do hundreds of other non-descript games on XBLIG or any other rubbish tip of video games. No, Over 9000 Zombie’s twist is… base-building!

(As an aside, one XBLIG title that Lemcke’s game does remind me of is I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1, primarily on the basis of shooting down huge swarms of enemies with a thumping rock soundtrack driving you on. GAM3 was a hybrid love letter and pisstake to internet and gaming ‘culture’, whereas Over 9000 Zombies is rather more po-faced. But they’re both games that I’d point at if asked to point at twin stick zombie shooters that I liked.)

Over 9000 Zombies - defences

Building bases is not exactly an uncommon feature these days. It does seem to me that every other title we see on Early Access is these days is some ambitious attempt or another to recreate Minecraft‘s success (sorry, I meant recreate its sandbox), possibly whilst infusing it with some homeopathic DayZ. Rust, Space Engineers, Far Sky, etc. You’ve seen them. Some of them are probably decent unfinished games, but you know. Minecraft was a much better unfinished game for a few years, right? How many more do we need? How many more unfinished projects are we going to have to see? Won’t someone think of the empty servers?!

I am managing to write about everything but Over 9000 Zombies. Sorry, readers. I’m off my meds. There was no milk for my coffee this morning. The cat died. Whatever it takes to make you forgive me. Let’s move on.

In Over 9000 Zombies you collect items from fallen enemies: the occasional new weapon, health kits, power ups, and scrap metal. With the latter you can construct turrets, each variant of which is equipped with a shooter archetype. Machine gun, grenade launcher, flamethrower, shotgun, that sort of thing. You can build up to six turrets. You can also build walls, although these can be destroyed by zombies.

Your objective is simply to survive each day; when night falls the zombies all wander off to get a glass of warm milk and climb back into their parents’ basements. This gives you 45 seconds  to prepare for the next wave.

For the most part Over 9000 Zombies is a par-for-the-course twin stick shooter. Visually it’s no great shakes, although its simplicity and clarity does help avoid confusion. Given what Lemcke is going for this is far preferable to the retina-scorching neon face-fuckery of so many shooters post-Geometry Wars (here I look once again at I MAED A GAM3, which occasionally likes to pretend it is a Mac OS screensaver). Much of the gameplay is plain old point and shoot, move and dodge, with the tried and tested techniques of corralling enemies for maximum kills working well enough. Zombies can spawn just about anywhere, which encourages you to constantly keep moving, which is an added frustration of which I thoroughly approve.

I found my greatest success by building my base alongside a lake – zombies can’t cross water, which automatically reduces their routes of ingress significantly – and spreading out three pairs of turrets, each with one shotgun and one explosive turret. Great crowd control. In the end that iteration of my hopes and dreams died because I got cocky on a night when every zombie was a fire-belcher. (Don’t question the enemy types. They do not question you.)

It is, put simply, a good bit of fun. A quick go to try it out and see whether it was worth writing about turned into a few quick goes, and increasing attempts to better my previous efforts. I enjoyed finding and trying out new weapons and having a little dabble with different defence layouts. I’m ranked about 150 in the game’s leaderboards with my last score. This would be more impressive if I suspected there were more than 500 names in there, but still. I killed lots of zombies!

Where I suspect the game may have missed its mark is with its price point. At £6 a pop I’m not sure how much value for money you’re likely to get from this game. It is still an unfinished Early Access title but in an hour I’d acquired almost every weapon and built every kind of turret; there were plenty more achievements and higher scores to achieve, surviving more and more waves, but at least at present building walls is fiddly enough that I don’t much care to experiment with very complex layouts to funnel zombies (if you’re thinking tower defence at this point, by the way, you’re right: this is a selling point the game advertises itself with).

Where I think Over 9000 Zombies would shine is in co-operative multiplayer, and the game’s Steam community hub seems to support me here. Unfortunately co-op is not yet available as a local feature. As and when local co-op arrives, I reckon AJ and I will probably get some entertainment out of this, as it reminds me a little of co-op EDF 2017. And, uh, if anyone else does happen to pick this up, let me know? I wouldn’t mind giving it a go online.

Over 9000 Zombies - Gouranga!