Giant Bomb Review19 Comments
Burn Zombie Burn! Review4
by Brad Shoemaker on
This demanding new PlayStation Network shooter offers rewarding score-based action--once you commit to learning its complex, unique mechanics.
The first time I saw doublesix's new top-down arcade shooter Burn Zombie Burn, I thought to myself "Oh good! Another dual-joystick shooter! Just what the world needs!" Then after I got my hands on the game and started murdering undead by the hundreds, I wished Burn Zombie Burn was a dual-joystick shooter, because its complicated controls are a bit off-putting until you get the hang of them. It certainly lacks the pick-up-and-play familiarity of games like Geometry Wars, but the game's differences from the other ilk of its genre ultimately work to its advantage. If you spend some time getting to know its mechanics, there's quite a uniquely satisfying, skill-based action experience here.
What it really took for me to enjoy this game was a run through the 15 minutes of included tutorials. Burn Zombie Burn is a complex game, by the standards of this genre, and though you can go in blind and just shoot everything that moves, you probably won't have a lot of fun with it that way. The game lives up to its name by making it your first priority to set zombies on fire, because that's how you score big points. When the zombies first spawn, they amble around aimlessly and only make a real effort to eat your brains when you get close. But on fire, their properties change significantly. They run a lot faster, and they all run straight at you, so setting enemies on fire with your handy torch or optional flamethrower is immediately useful as a form of crowd control since it makes them all bunch up together when they're pursuing you. You just need to make sure you have room to run away from them when you do this.
More importantly, when zombies are on fire, they add to a score multiplier that can increase the points you earn by a factor of up to 100. They also drop better power-ups that increase your movement speed or the range and power of your droppable TNT, which is crucial to killing a lot of the undead buggers en masse. (Normal zombies will only drop health and ammo when you kill them.) In short, the idea is to find a balance: enflame a bunch of enemies when you have health and ammo so you can power up your TNT and then splatter all of the bastards at once for huge points; drop back and fight regular zombies when you need more health and need to clear out some space. The action takes on an interesting rhythmic quality once you get the hang of this back-and-forth process, and it was really satisfying for me to see my increasing skill result in scores 10 or 20 times higher than I was reaching before I got the hang of the game's flow.
Again, the controls here are more complicated than move-with-left-stick, shoot-with-right-stick. You're dealing with lock-ons and strafes here that feel clumsy at first, but they allow you a steadier sort of control than a dual joystick setup once you get the hang of them. Aside from the upgradable TNT, the weapons in here are mostly conducive to killing tons of zombies really quickly. Uzi, chainsaw, chaingun, lawnmower: these are great, satisfying weapons to use when you're properly using fire to clump the zombies together for slaughter. There are some more unique weapons, like a soundwave device that makes the zombies dance to a tune that sounds way too much like Michael Jackson's "Thriller," and a brain launcher that lures the enemies away from you. The game's sense of humor is cheesy as hell, but who cares? You're here for the action.
And there's enough action to keep you coming back long enough to justify the $10 price tag. There are six levels in the game, each of which you can play in free and timed mode, and in a "Defend Daisy" mode where you have to protect a pretty lady in the middle of the map from the horde. Additionally, there are 10 unique challenge levels that add or remove various restrictions on weapons and movement that make the gameplay interesting from one to the next. You can only access subsequent levels, modes, and challenges by earning medals on the previous ones, so there's a sort of linear progression to the game as you improve your skill. Finally, you can play the game in two-player, but only in a local format and only split-screen. I can live without online play, but the game looks a little cramped in split-screen and I wish the local co-op simply zoomed out to accommodate two players on the same screen instead. But then, this sort of game is better as a solo experience anyway.
Burn Zombie Burn isn't for people looking for a casual action game; if you can't hang with the demands of something like Geometry Wars, this one will probably stress you out to no end. But if you enjoy getting a grip on fairly complicated mechanics and juggling them as fast as you can while you watch your scores race ever higher, there's a lot of depth in this one. Now if you'll excuse me, those gold medals aren't going to earn themselves.