I’m not sure what ZAMB! Redux wants to be.
On the face of it, it’s a twin stick shooter, but then if you blink for a second, you’ll find a tower defense title before your eyes. I guess there is nothing wrong with mixing the two genres if you really must, but surely this sees it coming across as a bit of a jack of all, master of none?
Unsurprisingly that is exactly what Zamb! Redux is. However it does manage to mix these ideas to a fairly decent degree.
ZAMB! Redux puts you in charge of Cye and Chrome, two space agents who are trying to save the universe from an evil scientist – Dr Hundertwasser – and his hordes of biomutants. In doing so, you’ll be left to utilise some twin stick action, all whilst dropping tower defence mechanisms in place, ensuring you get rid of the damn scientist and his crazy ideas.
The mix comes about rather well too, with you finding yourself running around various arenas in the hope that you can save a number of reactors from being destroyed by these mutants. Collecting gems is the key to all this, as these power the special abilities that Cye and Chrome come with. Without them, you’re left with a simple rifle touting guy in Chrome and Cye the brawler, given the chance to switch between the two with ease depending on how the gameplay is panning out. It’s not the most exciting form of twin stick action I’ve ever taken in, but it just about does the job intended, particularly when you and a sofa based friend take charge of one character each. If only because the solo player will have to otherwise put up with an inconsistent AI who either goes totally gung-ho, or seemingly hides away doing nothing.
This twin sticking complements the tower defense side as once you’ve got yourself enough gems – either through crate destruction or enemy deaths – the real action can start. This allows Chrome to place a number of various turrets around the playing field, pretty much wherever you so wish, although there are specific points which deliver extra turret power should you feel you can place them there. These turrets come in various forms, from the standard shooter, to a gas filled close combat affair, to one that snipes with a laser a mile off and more. With these in place, your job is quickly made a whole ton easier, letting you then collect more gems in order to build more turrets and defend for your lives.
It’s not just Chrome who gets the fancy tricks though and Cye comes equipped with a variety of powerups. These can be placed on the floor as mines, sitting in wait for unsuspecting bad guys to pass over them, or as throwable orbs that destroy or heal anything they touch. Again, it’s all standard stuff and nothing that will see you sit back and be amazed, but they are all good options to have, especially when you begin to work on combos, blending the turrets’ destructive force with the flexibility of the powers.
You will have to think about your options too because as you progress through the 27 stages – all set in Hundertwasser’s Workshop, Mine and Lab – you’ll find that you can only take three powers and three turrets to the party at any one time. With each of them upgradeable in a number of ways – range, power and health are the most basic upgrades – you’ll have to mix and match things depending on the stage at hand. You’ll no doubt find your favourite combination of skills fairly quickly mind, falling back on them when times are hard, but with the opportunity to run through each level multiple times, as you attempt to nail all six objectives that are set for each one, there is always a little room for manoeuvre.
Should you ever get too confused by what is going on, then a well defined Encyclopedia is present, allowing further insight into the characters, enemy types, turret abilities, powers and special combos that can be created.
ZAMB! Redux is one of those games you can just sit back and chill with, forgoing the need to think too much, holding a trigger finger solid and just seeing where it takes you. For the most part that is fairly enjoyable, however a few things hold it back from really being able to stand out from the crowd.
Firstly, and the pacing found in-game is just wrong. It’s so slow that your super powerful space agents seem like they are constantly running through treacle. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not an issue per se, because the alien foes that come your way move with just as much intensity, but a little bit of a kick-on would be hugely appreciated. This is, after all, a twin stick shooter and much of the draw of those comes in the fast pace that they work with.
There are also problems with the arenas that you find yourself in, as you go about protecting the reactors that are so crucial to your success. Whilst they look decent enough, there is just too much going on: overhanging structures, intricate walls and other such furniture get in the way of the action. Without being able to twist and turn the camera to a preferred view point at any time, this becomes hugely annoying, especially when you miss encroaching enemies. I didn’t think I’d ever complain that there is too much detail in a video game, but here I am telling the team at Nano Games to just tone it all down slightly. Thankfully, the simplistic map that highlights everything you need to know just about helps overcome many of these issues, but it’s still all a bit too complex.
That detail is also very apparent when hordes of enemies come at you and your reactors from various routes. There is just a bit too much going on at various times, with bodies, bullets, health bars and more all getting in the way of the proper action. That’s not a slight on the cartoony comic book visual style, but it does ensure your time with ZAMB! Redux just boils down to holding the fire button, before spraying and praying forever more in the hope that you take down any opponents before they kill you. That’s fine by itself but when the tactical side of tower defense also needs to come into play, it sees things get messy.
But other than that, the lengthy loading screens, and the price tag which is too high for such an experience, and you should find that ZAMB! Redux is a fairly fun title to play through. Like mentioned, if you just want some mindless shooting, it’ll do the job, but similarly, the inclusion of the defense mechanics bring a little strategy should you be looking for it.
At its worst ZAMB! Redux is a ponderous twin sticker, but at its very best, it’s a tactical shooting fan’s dream – it’s just a shame it rarely reaches those latter heights. You’re not going to be found playing ZAMB! weeks nor months down the line, for each arena more or less brings the same thing, but if you can find it in a sale, and need something to act as a bit of a time waster, then it’s just about one to consider.