I’ve been a longtime fan of Blendo Games, ever since their first-person vignette Gravity Bone inspired this very column. So the fact that Brendon Chung’s latest release excites me should come as no surprise. Nor is it surprising how original, innovative and lighthearted it is.
What should surprise you is that it manages to put an original spin on the zombie story.
Atom Zombie Smasher puts you in command of Nuevos Ares Orbital Command, where your primary mission is to rescue civilians from the zombie menace. The zombies and civilians appear as little square dots on an overhead map of the city, and you can place units such as mercenaries and rescue helicopters to help you safely evacuate civilians to your orbiting space station.
Time passes with each mission, which brings changes. More daytime means fewer zombies. Time spent on one mission means time for other areas to grow worse, and the overall map of the city either gets cleared out by your mercenary forces or controlled by the zombie hordes. A victory track keeps score, showing overall progress for you and the zombies.
The varying conditions, the random mercenaries and the uncontrollable civilians all lead to tons of replayability. Yet you don’t feel constrained. You are given different units and conditions, but your behavior is completely deterministic. It’s a brilliant mix of chance and skill.
The theme is also brilliantly played off with a light-hearted sense of humor sprinkled over a mix of shiny of optimism and some dark, underlying themes of hopelessness. It’s rare that a strategy game tries to be anything other than strictly martial, let alone funny.
Did I mention 3-player coop?
Talking Points: It’s a strategy game, so can we talk about the meaning? What does strategy bring to the zombie theme that other zombie games lack? What does the theme bring to this game that it doesn’t for other strategy games? Irony? How does the light-hearted tone set this game apart from so many strategy games?
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