An attack by a swarm of ravenous, flesh-eating undead doesn't sound like much of a party -- but indie twin-stick shooter Zombie Party makes the zombie apocalypse a lot of fun with simple but colourful sprites, fast-paced action and an interesting blend of traditional bullet-hell and RPG mechanics. Indie studio Peach Pie Productions have taken what was once a simple web-based shooter and added a suite of new features that give this superficially simple game compelling depth.
At its heart, Zombie Party is a twin-stick, shoot-'em-up in which the player races around the screen avoiding zombies and other monsters while collecting coins, power-ups and weapons with which to blast the enemy. Weapons range from the obvious (pistols, shotguns, rifles, submachine guns, grenade launchers and so on) to the bizarre (guns that shoot rainbows or gadgets that deploy swarms of robot spiders). In the main Adventure mode, each level consists of a series of enemy waves, including giant bugs, dancing skeletons, huge scorpions, disco zombies, living icicles and more; defeat all the waves and a powerful boss, such as a giant zombie or a living pyramid, emerges. Beat the boss and it's on to the next level.
Aesthetically, the game is charmingly retro, with simple but well-designed enemies that almost make you sorry for the zombies, mummies and other monsters you're gunning down. Its chirpy chiptune soundtrack helps keep all the violence light-hearted as well.
If Zombie Party were just another retro faux-Mega-Drive cute-'em-up it would still be a lot of fun for your money. But the game adds an extra layer of complexity by incorporating some RPG-like mechanics. As the character defeats bosses and enemies, new skills and power-ups become available, allowing characters to improve accuracy, rate of fire and other abilities. Players can also spend the gold coins they find on bigger and better weapons and power-ups in the game's shop.
Alternate modes of play include Dungeon mode, in which characters explore (and often blow up) underground mazes, a timed Arcade mode and a head-to-head Deathmatch mode. Co-op play allows players to join friends for zombie battles, although online play can be a little laggy when the zombies really start swarming.
In addition to weapons and powerups, players can customize their experience by choosing from a range of different characters and even giving their characters distinctive hats and helpful animal pets. The different combinations of weapons and powers add a lot to the game's replayability; replaying a level with different weapons can feel almost like playing a completely new stage.
Come to the party
With its fast-paced shooting gameplay, RPG-like customisation elements and colourful aesthetic, Zombie Party is a fun -- but surprisingly tense -- solo or co-op experience. It isn't world-changing, but its charming attitude, high replayability and affordable price point make this a great choice for players who want to load up the Sticky Shotgun, deploy the Spiderbots and blow the head off an evil giant centipede.