OMG HD Zombies!: review

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This is a very cheap indie game with the word ‘zombies’ in the title. Now, you may find it difficult to continue reading with the deafening roar of the DO NOT BUY klaxon currently thundering through your head, but please – press on. This is one of those exceptions that prove the rule. This is good.

OMG HD Zombies! is in effect a supercharged remake (including trophies and online leaderboards) of a little-known, but critically acclaimed, PSP mini by the name of OMG-Z. The basic idea couldn’t be more simple. There are a total of one hundred single-screen stages, each crammed full of dozens of zombies. You need to make lots of zombies dead (er, again) in order to progress. You have a rifle, there’s a veritable ocean of blood and gore, there are several different zombie types, and the game even carries multiple endings – but this isn’t a shooter. It’s not even an action game. It is in fact the messiest puzzle game you’re ever likely to play.

When you first start to play, the odds are stacked heavily against you. Even the most sparsely populated stages have a number of zombies well into double figures, yet you have just four bullets. On top of that, each zombie has a health bar, and it’s not long before you start to come across some that refuse to go down with one shot. The key to success is kicking off chain reactions; most zombies explode when they die (of course) and so, picking your shots carefully, you can play bloody dominoes.

It’s safe to say that it’s a bit late for the ambulance.

You can go all old-skool and drag a cursor around the screen to aim your shots should you so wish, but we strongly recommend going for touchscreen controls instead. It may take a little while to perfect the same level of precision (or perhaps that’s just us with our bloated, misshapen thumbs), but once you get into the swing of it it’ll feel like second nature, and you can jump in for a shot anywhere on screen as soon as you see it. And that’s jolly important; zombies are constantly shuffling along, changing direction as they go.

Each stage has three medals to be won, from bronze (60% of zombies splattered) to platinum (100% turned to porridge & giblets). Each medal also has a cash prize attached, and the virtual pennies are used for upgrades. You have absolutely no chance of getting through this game without the upgrades. Maxing out your rifle, for example, gives you six shots instead of four, and ensures that even the toughest zombie will suffer a fatal allergic reaction to one bullet. The Gamer’s Best Friend is present in some stages (hint: starts with ‘exploding b’, ends in ‘arrels’) and can be upgraded in terms of explosion radius, damage dealt, and number thereof.

Success is more complicated than it at first appears. Each zombie type has a unique way of dealing damage to others. For example, Cop zombies shoot straight ahead upon death (upgradeable for damage and penetration), while Soldier zombies shoot at a slight angle (upgradeable for damage, number of bullets, and ricochet). Other zombie types will run through a crowd, dealing damage as they barge past; melt into a pool of acid; explode with a wide radius but weak damage; shoot a beam of electricity, freezing and damaging zombies; act as a mortar, sending their head flying off to elsewhere in the stage. Examine the screen carefully. How many zombies have long health bars, and which types have you upgraded to deal a decent amount of damage? Where are they in relation to one another?

Colour coding zombies and on-screen health bars can be useful, but both can be switched on and off at will.

This is a game which becomes almost instantly addictive. When you first hit a wall, unable to unlock any more stages because you need shinier medals, you’ll happily dive back in to old levels determined to beat your own scores. When we finally unlocked the final stage we’d put several hours in, most of our medals platinum or gold with not a bronze to be seen.

It must be said, however, that the skill/luck ratio is sometimes out of whack once you’ve bought at least half of the upgrades. Buff up Soldier zombies, for example, and a few stages can be almost completely cleared out with just one shot without any need for planning.

Not every zombie type appears in every stage however, and the proportions of different types vary wildly. They won’t always be clumped together as conveniently as you’d like either, and this is why every stage can and must be approached with a fresh mind.

When you’ve finally earned every platinum medal and bought every upgrade, you can prestige (reset) the game while retaining your records, and earning an extra multiplier. You’re able to do this up to twenty times, though surely only the most worryingly obsessed will do so. There are instawin grenades to be purchased with real money, but their existence is easy to ignore thanks to the wise decision to avoid “encouraging” their purchase in-game. The bottom line is this: What we have here is a bloody great (a pun! Haha!) puzzle game that costs just £2.99. That’s less than a tenth of the price of the godawful Ride To Hell: Retribution. If you’re desperate for a reason to dust off your Vita, this is one of the best places to start.

critical score 8

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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