Edited 8/10/2017 for grammar.
With its popularity bubbling away beneath the surface of Steam for quite some time, Zombie Night Terror is now starting to a little more attention. It’s weird that it’s taken this long. Perhaps the somewhat overplayed nature of zombies in games these days has something to do with it. It is certainly true that we’ve seen zombies thrown into almost every genre over the last few years. But it’s a shame if people are put off by that, though, because this mash-up of two of gaming’s absolute mainstays is incredibly well-made, and damn fun, too.
I’ve become a little fatigued with zombies myself if I’m honest, but Zombie Night Terror has managed to reignite my affection for those brainless brain-suckers in by doing a couple of brilliant things. First, developers NoClip have used them into a particularly compelling and satisfying puzzle game that makes them feel like a fresh and necessary addition. Second, the brilliant schlock-horror movie-themed setting is well implemented, and can’t help but remind me why zombies make the best B-movie monsters.
Also…it’s undead Lemmings. Though not quite the recognizable franchise it once was, Lemmings was nothing short of an absolute phenomenon during the nineties, nailing that ‘just one more try’ feeling long before Angry Birds and its ilk approached the level based puzzler. Who can forget the weirdo landscapes that made up each level, that squeaky cry of ‘Let’s go!’ which heralded the start of each level, and above all else, the utterly fiendish levels of difficulty. This game frequently hit hard as well, requiring skill and timing as well as brainpower to progress.
ZNT doesn’t stick too rigidly to that classic formula, at least in the beginning. Sure, some of the zombie types will be pretty familiar to longtime fans of those little green haired rodents (the overlord, for example, functions just like the blocker in the Lemmings games) but there are some interesting tweaks to the system too.
You begin each level with some zombies, a few doses of the zombie infection. Your job is to guide your flesh-hungry horde through doors and up staircases, devouring unsuspecting humans along the way. You’ll have to avoid high drops (naturally your zombies will only walk straight off them) and also the more dangerous varieties of human, armed with weapons such as hittin’ sticks or firearms. If you don’t divide and overwhelm these threats, they’ll happily pick off members of your horde. These guys are a little cleverer than the average human, too: whereas most will vapidly run away from the oncoming undead, these have-a-go-heroes will take a few shots, then hurry away and try to barricade themselves inside rooms.
Everything in ZNT wrapped in such lovely packaging. The minuscule pixel-art presentation is endearing here, with animations in particular successfully imbuing a sense of personality into the zombies and their victims. The little speech bubbles of terrible B-movie dialogue that the humans exchange is great too, and very in keeping with the overall style. The music is great too, with the ever-present synth generating an appropriately moody atmosphere throughout.
If ZNT has taught me one thing, it’s that the problem of undead fatigue in games isn’t the zombies’ fault. It’s that games which feature zombies lack the imagination to use them in interesting or different ways. Zombie Night Terror doesn’t have that problem, and because of that, it's charming lil’ dead guys stole my heart.
Andy is a freelance writer for Game With Your Brain. You can follow him on Twitter.