Games‎ > ‎

Pet Zombies - 3DS Review

Game Info
Pet Zombies

3DS | Majesco Entertainment / 1st Playable Productions | 1 Player | StreetPass Support | 
Out Now (North America)
More Related Articles: See bottom of page

5th December 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

Alright, let's get real here.
Pet Zombies has to be the strangest game to appear on the 3DS thus far. In a word, it's an oddball. Although it mimics simulation formulas we've seen before, its demeanor gives it enough room to stand out from the pack. And yet, the marked lack of enjoyment is probably just as big of a differentiation point as the oddity of the concept itself.

    Getting started, you begin by choosing from a handful of zombie types to name and adopt. These include a zombified nerd, cook and even a granny. The appearance of the zombie flesh may appear unattractive at first, but it will never make you shudder. From there, you'll get to interact with your new pet in an average-sized playground of sorts. You'll first have the basic Main Street, but slowly you'll unlock more of these "rooms" as you go along.

    The 3D Screen will host a visual of your pet in this environment as he/she walks back and forth or gets close to the screen. On the Touch Screen, you'll see a grid-style display with footprints to show where your pet is. While movement isn't under your direct control, tapping those icons will produce a whistling sound effect that gets your pet's attention when there's something nearby to interact with.

    Pet Zombies adopts a Torture-vs-Nurture system which allows you to interact in a number of ways with a purpose in mind, not just aimlessly treating it like a failed science experiment. Under the main component of the game (labelled as 'Care'), this principally is seen through the use of items and how using certain objects can be used to level-up your pet. Selecting the Items menu at the bottom of the Touch Screen, you'll find four different sub-menus to choose from: Toys, Food and Tools. These include tennis balls, mystery meat, and torches, just to name a few. At the start, only a small number of things are available for use, but as your pet's level increases, you'll slowly unlock more stuff to purchase from the Zombie Goods Shop. Whether your pet is hungry or in the mood for some play time, thought bubbles will appear above their heads to indicate what they're longing for at the moment.

Represented by blue and orange plus symbols, your pet will show different reactions based on how they interact with the item on the field, or how you interrupt said interaction. For example, setting up the toy mirror and just letting your pet admire their “good looks” will add to the Nurture side of the spectrum. However, spending too long in front of the mirror will cause the glass to shatter, leaving a raincloud above your pet's head and adding Torture points to the scale. By touching the item's icon on the Touch Screen, you can also ring the bell for amusement purposes or flip the entire thing so it knocks your pet over in the process. While the changes in this level-up system happen incrementally and rather slowly, it does do its job of keeping the game moving.

    Planting items for your zombie to play with is just one of the interactive options offered through the Touch Screen. If your pet makes his or her way to the front of the field, the in-game camera will zoom in for a close-up. When this happens, a cleaning brush will pop up that you can grab with a tap of the stylus. You can then use the tool to scratch parts of its face and neck via a silhouette of your zombie character a la Nintendogs. Unfortunately, the execution here is quite sloppy.

    Besides the basic care-taking principles, other systems have been put in place as well. Completing different kinds of tasks will credit you with Badges as a way of marking your personal achievements in the game. Some of these are straight-forward like reaching score intervals within mini-games, while others are more silly in nature, like keeping a zombie on fire for 60 seconds or making a zombie dizzy using a laser pointer. Early on, you also have some undisclosed goals, presumably to make sure you remember important things like feeding your pet. However, many of these appeared to be in a set order you had to follow to actually have your actions count. So this system doesn't end up being anything worthwhile, due to the fact that it'll just result in players exploring every little action button they see with no real purpose in mind. Sadly, this isn't the only area of the game that falls flat. But let me put that thought on hold for a sec.

Zombucks serve as the currency of the in-game world which, again, can be spent on items found in the Shop menu. Random events known as Zombie Encounters will give you a small amount of coin, usually when you begin a session. But the main way of earning Zombucks is through the playing of mini-games. There are five in total, with the only one available from the start being Zombie Launch. In it, you use a giant slingshot to send your pet through the air, collecting coins on your way back down to the ground. Not exactly fun, but it's not bad either. I kind of liked how even while you were under the main component of the game, occasionally an icon would appear to the left of the Touch Screen to suggest playing one of these mini-games. If you choose to accept the invite, you'll jump straight there instead of having to jump back to a menu and make your selection all the time.

    In discussing the technical side of things, the use of 3D is one area where I actually think the developers did a good job. While not expansive or anything, the zombies have a bold look whether they are seen from close-up or from far away. Everything else -- as far as presentation goes -- could've used a bit of improving, from the character animations to the occasional glitches. In an attempt to instill a sense of pride within players, Pet Zombies also incorporates StreetPass functionality whereby connecting players can earn and swap trophies. The idea is, once again, decent, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone at random who even owns the game to begin with.

    As a whole, I find it difficult for me to speak positively about Pet Zombies. The entire thing makes you feel like an alien looking to examine the habits of zombie life form. Forgetting this, the whole idea of having what really boils down to a "pet human" can be an understandably disturbing thought to interested persons. In fact, the game nonchalantly touches upon the fact that there's a bit of an ethical conflict here, but it seems to do fine without having players probe serious questions about the validity of the surrounding concept. Even still, as a form of entertainment, Pet Zombies will get scrutinized not long after you first begin training your pet.

The need to build up the bar to unlock new trinkets through nurturing and torturing should ideally keep the game moving progressively, but to do this you end up repeating the same mini-games and keep playing with the same toys over again. Naturally, this becomes a very repetitive affair. Unfortunately, the monetary gain in mini-games isn't very high either (even with great scores), contributing to a slow-moving pace.

    I find it very interesting that the game advises you to "consider taking a break" after playing for a while, not because the 3D effects are tiresome on the eyes or anything like that, but because the game's flaws will start to become more and more clear the longer you play. Yes, this is probably meant to be played in short bursts, but when repeat plays end up resorting to the same sequences of events with variation being few and far in-between, that's not much of a game is it?

    It must be said that Pet Zombies is not meant to be taken seriously, but even then, it's very difficult to actually enjoy yourself with it. A few sessions is all it takes to reveal the cracks in the otherwise-average formula. It gets to a point where the game feels primitive in a sense. With this in mind, I think they've really limited themselves with the audience they seem to be targeting. I'd be surprised if a teenager even finds this appealing to begin with; it's already an odd title as it is, so to have imperfections like this that deter you from playing the game is very unfortunate.

    The fact is, Pet Zombies is not very sustainable across multiple sessions, and although the systems described earlier are somewhat interesting, they don't give the game enough legs to hold a person's interest for very long. If you're looking for a pet simulation game you can sink your teeth into, Pet Zombies isn't the game you're looking for. Majesco definitely took a risk bringing this to market, but beyond the curiousity-arousing premise lies a repetitive game that doesn't really go anywhere or provide any kind of satisfaction.

16/30 - Below Average

Gameplay 5/10 - Players choose between torturing and nurturing pets, level-up system for shop unlocks, adopts a repetitive structure with a slow pace
Presentation 6/10 - 3D is quite good, both character animations and even the technical execution in places could've been better, occasional glitches
Enjoyment 2/5 - Some amusing moments, not long before the game falls flat, low satisfaction, hard to get into because of how odd it is, decent mini-games
Extra Content 3/5 - StreetPass trophies, mini-games, lots of items, Badges to collect for performing various tasks, prospect of repeat plays isn't inviting

Equivalent to a score of 53% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Pet Zombies
Review | Screenshot gallery | Media | Feature | Interview | Preview