17 Oct 2011

REVIEW: Alien Zombie Megadeath

I recently commented on how often developers feel obliged to force uninspired storylines upon their games in an attempt to give some sort of substance to proceedings. Most of the time it doesn't add anything at all, which was my point, particularly when the focus of play is purely on the destruction you can wreak between cutscenes. It's hard to give a crap about individual character relationships when you spend most of your time massacring entire species. Which is why I applaud the approach PomPom Games took in introducing the player to this finely realised game world:

'You are a lone Spaceman doing something or other. Driving around in your spacecraft, visiting random planets.

They are the Alien Zombies. Intent on the destruction of all Spacemen doing stuff... in space.'

Bravo. It's as if they wrote that intro simply to emphasise the fact that it wasn't needed at all. And I also appreciate the insinuation that, if the aliens weren't zombified, they might have been a decent bunch of guys.

Alien Zombie Megadeath is very much a game about wanton slaughter. It's also about earning points and madly shifting between numerous horizontal platforms to avoid contact with - and death by - an array of colourful foes.

This is trad arcade in many ways. You don’t need to have been playing games for most of your life to take one look at the screenshots here and realise exactly what it is you would have to do were you playing it yourself. Move and shoot, shoot and move, pick up those crystals, power up and blast the hell out of legions of space slime. Easy.

There are eighty levels of varying difficulty, most of which will have you clearing each screen of aliens. Variations that pop up from time to time consist of bomb disposal, space baby rescue (really) and good old fashioned survival, along with the odd boss fight. Further levels and designs for your spacesuit are unlocked as you earn medals from specific achievements within battles, but you’ll rarely find yourself having to replay to perfection in order to proceed through the game.

In this respect, AZM is accessible enough for a casual gamer to dip in and out of, but big and tough enough for the hardcore to spend a lifetime completing and unlocking everything that the game has to offer.

It would be easy to pass off AZM as a throwaway, nuts and bolts shoot ‘em up at first glance, but that’s not the case. A wealth of enemy types keep you thinking on your feet and there are enough entertaining additions (jet packs, anyone?) and game types to keep it from becoming a desperate space-slog. It may not be spectacularly pretty, but bright colours and distinctive creature designs mean it’s generally simple to keep track of all but the most frantic of shootouts. To compliment this, the controls are particularly responsive and work well enough on either keyboard or gamepad.

I'm not saying the game will rob you of your sleep, but if you're a fan of arcade shooters, AZM is robust and entertaining and there should be enough content here to keep you going for a very long time.

Alien Zombie Megadeath sees release on 18th October 2011 and will be available for purchase via Steam (£7.99)

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