By Jay Krieger
There is a special place in my heart for arcade shooters. They keep players aimlessly scrambling around an environment, finger never leaving the ‘shoot’ button and trying not only to stay alive but, more importantly, to acquire as many points and multipliers as possible before dying. This is the bread and butter of “All Zombies Must Die!: Scorepocalypse” – fast and frantic destruction of all that moves. “Scorepocalypse,” a stand-alone expansion pack to developer doublesix games’ “All Zombies Must Die!: Scorepocalypse,” shows right from the first level why having ‘score’ in the title is justified.
Players are put in the boots of McJagger (no joke), a marine tasked with wiping out zombie hordes in the town of Dead Hill while attempting to save any civilians encountered along the way. The game’s world is split into the main game hub and four other environments. Players combat a variety of zombies ranging from the typical slow, stupid “walkers” to the energetic, jogger zombies, as well as police and army zombies, equipped with assault rifles. The odd exploding zombie even makes an occasional appearance. While these enemies are easy enough to handle in small groups, eventually their force grows in size, and tackling hordes that approach from all sides can be a handful.
The more zombies killed, the higher your score, and optional challenge goals such as, “Kill 20 zombies in 30 seconds” increase your multiplier in addition to your score. Frantically completing several tasks at once, while tracking ammo and health, leaves little time to blink. In theory these simple concepts may sound monotonous, but once you find yourself being pursued by dozens of flesh hungry zombies it becomes a true test of wits and goal management.
To help fight the undead hordes, McJagger has an arsenal of guns and melee weapons that can be upgraded with parts discovered in the different environments. New to the ”All Zombies Must Die!” franchise are two weapons: a mini-gun and a rocket launcher that are dropped after dispatching a certain number of enemies. If conventional weapons aren’t to your liking, then how about crafting a toxic shotgun? Or maybe a fire revolver? Check and check, you can make these and other elemental weapons from scavenged parts found in the environments. Finding parts to upgrade weapons is difficult; I’ve only found four after 10 hours of play. Regardless, you select one weapon as your primary, which cannot be replaced while in a level, and pick up additional weapons scattered across the environment, as well as crates that may contain score multipliers, extra ammo, health, and experience points. Experience points, you say?
Yes, “Scorepocalypse” has some RPG elements to it, as McJagger does gain XP from every kill and objective completed and spends it upgrading one of four categories: damage, shields, health or speed. In addition to your arsenal, after achieving a predetermined number of points, you gain a smart bomb or airstrike. While the airstrike is activated immediately, bringing a fire storm of destruction around your character, the smart bomb is saved until you activate it. It is critical to staying alive after a few waves and can change the tide of combat instantly, as it will vanquish all enemies surrounding your character. It is incredibly satisfying to be scrambling and searching for health as you’re about to die and letting a swarm of zombies surround you, only to cheat death by activating a smart bomb killing your pursuers. There were several occasions, though, when my character wouldn’t move for a few seconds after using a smart bomb. This resulted in zombies outside the blast zone being given a chance to run to my frozen character and deal some damage. These frustrating deaths, as with every hit you take from a zombie, result in your speed decreasing for a few seconds.
Occasionally, you will come across civilians that can be rescued and brought back to your base, though this is easier said than done. After obtaining a certain point total, a civilian will appear on the map and you have to defend them – though for how long I never found out. I would stand next to the civilian, protecting them from incoming zombies, yet the amount of time I had to defend them for always seemed to change. This created awkward moments where I was completely clueless in managing my ammunition due to the seemingly inexplicable variability in time required to protect civilians. Worst of all, it sometimes resulted in dying. Once the civilians have been rescued, the player return to the military base, and is given different mission objectives which are rewarded with XP or items that can be used for crafting. These interactions are brief, and while some of the dialogue is humorous, most conversations feel automated as the missions amount to little more than, “score 400,000 points at graveyard” or “find three documents.” Then again, for an arcade shooter, depth isn’t really mandatory. The traditional gameplay style of “kill and score” is entertaining but a little more complexity in any genre of game cannot hurt.
“All Zombies Must Die!: Scorepocalypse” is not a game you will play for hours at a time, or one that revolutionizes the way arcade shooters are played, but it doesn’t have to be. The game is simply an enjoyable experience. You won’t be playing marathon sessions of this one, but trying to kill as many zombies as possible and racking up as many points as possible gives players good incentive to come back and try to best the leader boards. Though it’s a little hard to find, the five dollar price tag on Steam makes it a steal, particularly for those looking for a brief diversion from AAA titles.
3/5 Gameplay: Fast and frantic zombie blasting fun though, after an hour, becomes repetitious.
4/5 Aesthetics: Great art style compliments the campy B horror movie theme.
2/5 Sound: Nothing really stands out here.
2/5 Story: Standard arcade shooter story of “marine must kill all zombies.” While this would be a cop-out for many titles, it’s acceptable for this arcade shooter.
4/5 Entertainment: Engaging arcade shooter that brings back nostalgic memories of classic arcade shooters. While the game is lacking in gameplay options and does grow tiresome after extended play sessions, I wholeheartedly enjoyed playing this game in short bursts. And, for a mere $5, it’s a welcome distraction from other AAA titles.