Zombo Buster Rising got us wondering about our zombie death-toll. If we stacked up our killcount from Left 4 Deads, Carmageddons, Plants Vs Zombies, Call of Duties and the rest, just what would it be? Unfortunately, we can only speculate, but we’re confident that we’ve doubled, maybe tripled it with Zombo Buster Rising. It’s the Black Friday of zombie massacring.
It’s also a one-trick zombie, which makes it very easy to describe. In Zombo Buster Rising, you are locked to the left-hand side of the screen, alongside a couple of AI-controlled sidekicks: a sniper and a grenade launcher dude. This is your base, and you have to defend it. From the right-hand side, much like Plants Vs. Zombies, waves of zombies start shambling towards you (a few will even fly at you, using drones and jetpacks).
You have a reticule which you can hover over the zombies and start pumping that A button. You will fire periodically, and your AI-controlled sidekicks will do the same. To liven it up a touch, there are three power-ups available on X, Y and B buttons which are, in order, a concentrated blast of dynamite, a time-stop, and an air raid that drops bombs in sequence across the battlefield. You can also purchase a few power-ups including a board-wipe with the coins you generate in the level. You can see the remnants of a mobile port working away beneath the surface.
So yeah, you hoard coins by mowing down zombies and completing levels, which lets you upgrade each character across five different categories. Complete a level well and you’ll receive up to three gems, which can be spent on broader, character-wide upgrades. You will need them, as the levels ramp up just as fast as your ability to contain them. There are thirty levels here, and they culminate in a rock-hard deathmatch against a boss, the Zombogod.
That’s Zombo Buster Rising, exhaustively described in three paragraphs. It’s a game that feels incredibly familiar, as it shares everything but a theme with Gangsta Paradise, a game that we reviewed earlier this year. They’re near-identical. And for anyone who’s not played that game, imagine a casual tower defence with only a few towers, and your character stuffed into one of them. But instead of mowing down zombies, you are limply pew-pewing at them a second…at…a…time.
Zombo Buster Rising’s overriding, glaring flaw is the gap between what you want to do, and what you’re able to do. No matter how nifty you are at moving that cursor around, you are stifled by the rate of fire, the damage you do, and the zombies (and humans, oddly, as refugees also try to make their way home) that act as bullet sponges, stopping you from hitting the zombies you most want to hit.
Part of the reason is that Zombo Buster Rising has got progression-itis. It wants you to be rubbish in the opening levels, so that the upgrades feel great when you reach the later levels. So, congratulations, you’re going to feel like you’re firing an air pistol with a cork in the end for the first half-hour or so. The other reason is that Zombo Buster Rising just can’t find a way to make its gameplay exciting. It needs you to feel threatened, and if you’re a dab hand at firing within the very limited field-of-view, well, adrenaline is not going to come into it. So, you’re left with dangling your legs over your base, lamely chucking the odd stone at some zombies. It’s not exactly Back 4 Blood.
The power-ups, all on cooldown, liven it up a bit. There’s some satisfaction in pushing back an entire front of zombies with the time-stop, or watching the board near-completely wipe with an air raid. But you will get one, maybe two air-raids per level, and the time-stop isn’t much better. You can’t help but imagine what Zombo Buster Rising might have been like with some co-op play, as there were two sidekicks just waiting to join. Perhaps some gun changes, or character changes would at least have added a pinch of spice. But the repetition stares unblinkingly into your face. You will have to grind the odd level to keep up with the difficulty curve, so there’s that too.
Zombo Buster Rising isn’t bad-bad. It’s not broken, it doesn’t stick around too long, and it’s not going to empty your wallet at a reasonable £4.19. But it hunts around within it’s tower-defence-meets-shooter gameplay for something resembling fun and can’t find it. Tracking a wave of zombies with a cursor and limply carving off life points isn’t going to make anyone stand on their sofa and do fist-pumps. Making the zombie apocalypse boring is a challenge, but Zombo Buster Rising has a good run at it.
You can buy Zombo Buster Rising from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S