A visit to the Zombie Estate

Review of Zombie Estate on XBLIG: Try
A multiplayer 2.5D pixel-art take on the dual-stick genre.

A 2.5D pixel-art take on the dual-stick shooter.

Zombie Estate is an innovative take on the dual-stick shooter—its weapons, graphics, playing field, and pacing all bring something different.  For fans of genre staples like Geometry Wars and Z0MBI3S!!!1, this might either be a refreshing change to an oft-repeated formula, or it may be too different from others in the genre to really enjoy.   Sadly, I fall more in the latter camp—many of the choices in this game’s design impressed me, but taken as a whole it wasn’t my cup of tea.

The most noticeable thing about the game is its aesthetic. Blocky pixel sprites are rendered in 2.5D, so the game has some depth while still maintaining a simplistic retro look.  It  took me a few moments to decipher the combination; flat sprites have been commonly used as detail in 3D games, but they make up the majority of the world here.

The 2.5D perspective is used well to emphasize the eponymous estate itself, which adds a strategic element.  Walls provide cover, windows provide sniping spots, and doorways provide choke points.  As I’m used to the straightforward play style of most shooters, I found this strategic element a bit tricky to use well.  Holing up in the estate can also be detrimental—to pick up money and ammo dropped by zombies before they disappear, I often had to stay close to the undead hordes.

Weapons are an important part of gameplay.  Between each wave, money collected from dead zombies may be used to purchase new weapons at the shop in the estate.  There is a wide variety of weaponry—standard machine guns, shotguns, and rifles are available at low levels, while higher levels offer rocket launchers, snow throwers that fire off a freezing blast, and medic guns that drop health power-ups.  A player can hotkey four guns to the D-pad at any time and switch between them quickly.  Each gun uses one of four types of ammo (assault, heavy, shells, and explosive), keeping ammo management simple.

Zombie Estate feels like it’s first and foremost meant to be a multiplayer game.  Weapons like the medic gun are a prime example: in single player they’re useless, but they would be great in a multiplayer game where each player took on a different role.  I only played the single player for this review, and I felt consistently overwhelmed.  It took quite a bit of time to finish off a wave of zombies, and I was typically wiped out 7 or 8 waves into the game.  It’s not that enemies become more numerous; it’s just that tougher and more maneuverable enemies are introduced in later waves.  I don’t fault the game’s pacing; I just don’t think it was built for single player.

Zombie Estate gets a Try from me.  It’s a well-designed and well-executed game, but it’s definitely not for everyone.  If you’re looking for a faster-paced shooter or don’t plan on playing with friends, this may not be the game for you.  However, if that’s the way your shooter interests lie, it’s certainly worth checking out.

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