So you like your music metal and your apocalypses of the zombie variety? Rock Zombie might just be the game for you. This is a game with a lot to hate about it but also a lot to love. The strangely synthetic guitar sounds, the unmoving, emotionless faces and glitches galore are all things that could take away from the experience that is Rock Zombie. But these things also add a peculiar charm to the game. This is a beat’em up in the early nineties side scrolling tradition and brought about not a small amount of nostalgia for games like Streets of Rage and Double Dragon.
There is a rough around the edges feel to Rock Zombie that will certainly make it appeal to fans of old school brawlers and cheesy B rate horror movies. This is definitely a game that fits into the category of been so bad that it’s good.
The main protagonists are three witches who play in a rock band, obviously. The story starts out with them playing a concert when suddenly the entire audience turns into zombies. Their guitars are of course magical, which is quite handy as this is when the zombie beating begins. This is probably the most serious part of the game, from here on in pure silliness ensues.
Cut scenes are handled with comic book style panels overlaid with hilariously bad dialogue that is as wooden as trees. If the mistakes in the dialogue were intentional then they are a stroke of genius as they will have you laughing out loud from the very beginning. The music throughout the game is very much as you would expect, nothing but generic synthesised rock that changes tracks without you even noticing, each one blending in with the last.
Controlling your witch is easy enough with each button providing a different attack. These can be combined into pre-set combos that score you extra points. Pulling off these combos is easy enough when only confronted with a few zombies but as you start to get over run a lot of button mashing ensues. There is also sometimes a problem with the collision detection and you find yourself getting stuck on objects in the background, making you easy prey for the zombies.
You start with a limited number of lives and like in games from the past when you lose all of your lives you are done, only able to continue from the start of the level. This is quite novel in a time when lives are infinite in most games. Having only a limited number of lives puts a real penalty on death and gives you an incentive to stay alive.
The back drops change with the levels and there are some suitably spooky locations for you to fight your way through the zombie apocalypse in. The graveyard setting seems particularly apt as a backdrop to some good old fashioned zombie slaying. With it’s cartoony comic book style the backdrops fit in perfectly with the comic strip cut scenes and emotionless player characters.
Rock Zombie starts off quite sedately with a few zombies to kill on a short first level. The number of zombies increases rapidly though and as you progress through the twenty levels the chapters get longer and longer. This isn’t always a good thing though as the gameplay does get a little repetitive and by the last few levels you feel as if you’re playing the same levels again and again, just with different backgrounds. Even the brilliantly awful dialogue quickly becomes repetitive and it is only the slip ups that the characters make in their speech that keeps it amusing. The developers have tried to break up the zombie slaying slightly with a few driving levels but this too become tedious quickly as the handling of the vehicles is horrible and the controls are, as one character points out, “slippy”.
The player models don’t fair very well in this game. No matter what is happening their faces remain exactly the same with no emotion been shown throughout the game, even in the cut scenes. The stances don’t change either, with body language and posturing been kept to the absolute minimum.
As I said before this is not a polished game and anyone who likes their games to shine with the gleam of a triple A title should probably give this one a miss. That been said, children of the nineties and fans of anything that is better the worse it gets will love Rock Zombie and there are hours to be lost find that perfect combination to take down the post zombies as fast as possible. That is what makes this game so much fun, the fact that combos and speed mean score so there is always ways to compare yourself to a previous play through and try to improve.
If this game was a food stuff then it would certainly be Marmite. A lot of people really aren’t going to like it but those that do will love it. I think if you look at this game and think that it is something that you might enjoy then you probably will.
A nostalgic side-scrolling beat’em up in the early 90’s tradition. A so bad it’s good affair that people who like some polish with their games should probably avoid. Good fun if you don’t want to take your zombie slaying too seriously.