Atom Zombie Smasher Review

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Atom Zombie Smasher Publisher: Blendo Games
Developer: Blendo Games


Platform: PC and Mac
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: 1 GHz Processor, 512 MB RAM, Open GL compatible video card, 60 MB HD space, Windows XP or more recent operating system

In charge of operation "Atom Smasher," your mission is to rescue the civilians trapped in districts of Nuevos Aires by a zombie outbreak before they become zombies themselves and multiply the problem. Supported only by a few zeppelin-transported mercenaries and a smattering of rescue helicopters, you secure districts and guarantee the future of Nuevos Aires.

Rating:
Kyle Ackerman


Atom Zombie Smasher is awesome. It's an elegantly minimalist, real-time strategy experience that simulates an urban zombie outbreak. Despite its simplicity, the variations on any mission are so enormous I can't stop playing. Even if I were to begin to get bored, the game is so unbelievably simple to modify that it's easy to tweak the parameters for an entirely different game experience. Were it not for some minor technical glitches, Atom Zombie Smasher would easily earn the full five stars.

Each campaign is a collection of individual rescue missions, in which you strive to save as many civilians as possible from encroaching zombies that will quickly overrun the few city blocks encompassed by each map. You start with a rescue helicopter that can drop in to pick up a load of survivors every few seconds, but those survivors have to be kept away from the zombies, lest they be converted and the zombie threat exponentially overwhelms the city zone. Though people and zombies alike are represented by simple dots, I quickly became attached to the helpless folk fleeing the slavering hordes. Yes, sometimes a group had to be sacrificed to save others, but it pained me every time to do so.

As the campaign progresses, you get a variety of mercenaries to help you evacuate Nuevos Aires. Snipers, artillery, dynamite, landmines and more all support your efforts, but unless you launch one of the game's various mods, you can never be sure which units will be available next month to help you evacuate another section of the city. That turns every mission into a unique strategy puzzle of survival. It's simple and brilliant.

There's also an overarching game at the level of Nuevos Aires itself. You'll see the various mission regions gradually overrun with zombies, and be able to chose which sections to rescue. As simple as this aspect of the game seems, it's critical to play strategically to control how severe zombie outbreaks become. It also lets you cluster zombie outbreak regions so that when llamas of mass destruction are available to you, you can clean up entire outbreak regions. It also forces difficult decisions. Low-level outbreaks are easy to contain, providing few points up front but many points over the duration of the campaign that can be the foundation of victory. Large-scale outbreaks are challenging, and risk allowing the zombies to take over Nuevos Aires, but can award more upfront points as well as scientists to research better tools to use against the zombies. Decisions are simple, few and absolutely critical.

The story, such as it is, is completely optional color introduced to the game through the "Zedpedia" and a series of one-page graphic novel-style vignettes. Pieced together, the tale chronicles operation "Atom Smasher," launched in January of 1961 to cope with a zombie outbreak in Nuevos Aires. The background materials mix intimate stories, political theater and zombie attacks a few words at a time to create a snapshot of the "Zed" outbreak (as the zombies are called). Vignettes are supplemented by informative (and possibly disinformative) research pieces complete with fictional footnotes. It's almost as if the producers of an absurdist Japanese game show constructed a plot about a zombie outbreak with overtones of political commentary without straying too far into the sensical. It's somehow perfect.

The true wonder of Atom Zombie Smasher is that it limits the player to a few simple strategic and tactical decisions, but makes the entire game hinge on those decisions. Choices are meaningful and powerful, making Atom Zombie Smasher engrossing at every step. And a little weird.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 18, 2011 8:20 PM.

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