Review of ZP2K9 on XBLIG: Buy
It’s like Super Smash Bros. crossed with Halo.

Yes, I admit that blurb is intentionally sensationalized, but it is more or less accurate.  ZP2K9 is an insanely fun multiplayer side-scrolling shooter by Ska Studios, creators of I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1NIT!!!1.

Deathmatch is the name of the game–kill enemies to score points, and the first player to the frag limit wins.  Although Capture the Flag and King of the Hill variants are available, they merely provide an alternate mechanism for scoring points.  Even the single player mode is just a fight against computer-controlled bots.  ZP2K9’s real fun lies in System Link and XBox Live play. (Surprisingly for an indie game, I found at least one random XBox Live game to jump into over the course of three different playing sessions.)

Gameplay revolves around collecting an arsenal of guns, grenades, and suits to use against opponents.  According to the game description, there are 13 types of weapons and 6 types of grenades, and I found a nice amount of variety among them.  Suits give powers, such as the ability to steal health, jump higher, fire faster, become invisible, or fly, as well as immunities to certain types of damage.  Guns range from standard guns like pistols, shotguns, and machine guns to more explosive and chaotic fare like rocket launchers, shrink rays, and grenade launchers.  I found that most guns take a bit of finesse, so expect to get splattered a few times while trying to learn to use them effectively.   I tended to gravitate towards the two types of swords, with their quick dash attacks that can two-shot enemies. 

In addition, the controls require a bit of a learning curve.  Attacks are performed with the right thumbstick, which I found awkward in a platformer.  Characters don’t jump very far, so I found myself tumbling down tunnels and into bottomless pits during my first few games.  However, characters can walk on the ceiling and walls—a useful trick once you get a feel for it.

As a final note, the hand-drawn art style lends a bit of whimsy to the game.  Player avatars include a ninja, a pirate, a knight, a viking, and a samurai.  The two team choices are Humans and Zombies, with avatars changing accordingly.  The level designs reflect this same style as well, although some of the level details tend to be a little busy.

ZP2K9 gets a solid Buy from me.  It’s a polished and well-balanced (if not always intuitive) free-for-all.  It’s a good way to kill half an hour with a bunch of your XBox Live friends.  Even single player is addictive after a few games.  At 80 points, it’s a bargain.

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