Zomborg Review

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Twin-stick shooters have been a genre I’ve played since before there were two sticks on a controller; the earliest one I can remember being Smash TV on the Super Nintendo. The latest in this genre is that of Zomborg, a game that comes from the busy beavers over at Ratalaika Games HQ. Mixing twin-stick mechanics with zombies, how can it possibly fail? 

Zomborg is presented from a top-down perspective, offset slightly for a kind of isometric viewpoint. The camera is completely fixed, so you wander in between buildings, navigating narrow gaps at your peril, as you have literally no idea what is coming for you. Luckily the zombies do make a characteristic growling noise, so you can tell when they are nearby. 

zomborg review 1
Top-down twin-sticking

The levels that we find ourselves in are quite large, and need to be explored carefully in order to find the objectives that need ticking off as we go. However, the sound is fairly sparse, to be kind, with only the atmospheric groaning zombies and gunshots capable of breaking the silence. There are also some robots who seem to have been issued with shotguns (don’t ask). All in all, I’d classify the presentation of the game as basic, but functional. It’s not going to blow your socks off, but then you kind of know what you’re going to get when the name Ratalaika comes up, yes?

There’s a bit of a story kicking around in Zomborg too. It is the year 2000, and the UN has had to create quarantine zones around the world in order to try and stem the flow of zombies. However, in a typical move that doesn’t shout “plot point!”, there are various documents and bits of data that got left behind, and now someone needs to go and pick them up.  And guess who that is going to be? Yes, we are part of a private mercenary outfit, apparently, and we are sent into the various zones with orders to carry out, data to retrieve, bodies to burn – you know, the usual kind of zombie apocalypse stuff. Quite why a mission to burn fifteen bodies is so vital when we have to literally shoot our way through a wave of zombies to do so is not made clear, however. It’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it, as Faith No More once sang. 

Now, let’s have a look at the gameplay on offer, and if you have ever played a twin-stick shooter in the past, you’ll feel right at home here. As is usual with these games, the left stick moves your character around the screen, the right stick aims a crosshair to show where your bullets are going to go, and the fire controls are mapped to the right bumper for primary fire, and the right trigger for secondary, which is usually some form of grenade. Add in X to reload and Bob’s your uncle. As I stated at the top, the areas that we have to run about in are pretty large, and crawling with zombies, so it is just as well that our gun has unlimited ammo. The grenades are limited, mind, so don’t go throwing them around willy nilly. 

zomborg review 2
The zombie hordes are coming

There are various missions to achieve in the levels and helpfully the locations of the things we need to interact with are shown on the mini map in the top right of the screen as either yellow dots or red crosses, depending on what they are. Once you have finished the mission for the level, there is a green marker that appears under your feet, leading you to the exit of the level, which weirdly is just a glowing green spot on the ground. Once the level is complete, it is off to the next, as we get to rinse and repeat, which is a pretty apt description of the gameplay here. The actual fighting found in Zomborg is not too difficult, but there are some almost vertical difficulty spikes in the game, making it tricky to get past certain points. So far, so usual, right?

As we complete missions and finish levels, we collect cash, which is all very handy. The best thing about having cash is having stuff to spend it on, and here in Zomborg you’ll discover things like new weapons, which are always welcome. The standard assault rifle you kick off with would struggle to perforate a zombie if you were standing on its toe, and so the sooner you can upgrade the better. Each weapon has pluses and minuses, as you’d expect, from the slow but heavily damaging sniper rifles to the fast but weedy sub machine guns; finding a weapon that you are comfortable with is key. The other thing to buy with your ill gotten gains is the hire of a “buddy” as the game calls it. Having two guns that are killing zombies is always better than one!

Sadly, Zomborg does suffer from the usual Rataliaka issue of giving up the achievements too easily, and I had the full 1000 Gamerscore banked before I had finished level 2. Luckily, in this case the actual gameplay is good enough to keep you playing even after the achievements are tapped out, which isn’t always the case. 

zomborg review 3
A worthy stab at the genre

In conclusion, Zomborg is a very worthy stab at a twin-stick shooter, and the challenge certainly becomes real on the later levels. If you fancy a go at the genre, this isn’t a bad place to start, and there are certainly worse games on the market. It isn’t going to set the world on fire, but this is definitely a case of a game being more than the sum of its parts. It’s cheap too, so what have you got to lose?

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Good shooting action
  • Nice selection of weapons to try out
Cons:
  • Difficulty spikes are steep
  • Achievements are just too easy
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Ratalaika Games
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch
  • Release date and price - 1 December 2023 | £4.19
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Good shooting action</li> <li>Nice selection of weapons to try out</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Difficulty spikes are steep</li> <li>Achievements are just too easy</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Ratalaika Games</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch <li>Release date and price - 1 December 2023 | £4.19</li> </ul>Zomborg Review
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