DSiWare | EnjoyUp Games | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 200 Nintendo Points
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19th December 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
Caught in the middle of an emotionally racking nightmare from which he is unable to awake, Ethan, a star-performing skateboarder, must contend with what seems to be a pandemonium of zombies striving for an apocalyptic takeover. Rather than address the problem head-on and figure out where all the zombies are headed (as it seems as though they're converging at one central point), he instead takes it upon himself to make rescuing frightened girls in need as his top priority. Across eight densely-populated stages, players control Ethan by moving left and right along a vertical, forward-moving path, evading not only zombies but patches of fire, evil pumpkins, spinning coffins, and the occasional car or two.
The game creates its own dreamscape with an eerie aesthetic that isn't over-the-top yet still makes the environment the very opposite of a safe haven. While this isn't done with the intention of stunning or subverting your ability to concentrate, there's really only one stage present that instills a semblance of relative horror. All others feature elements that actually take away from the forcefulness of it all, including the existence of trees with flaming tops that aren't animated strongly, enemy designs that exhibit behaviours and carry an appearance that seems less associated with what's common with this generation, and wilted hands appearing both behind and in front (to sudden spurts) that can't be taken too seriously. The colour scheme, however, is appropriate and not once betrays the themes at work.
Getting back to gameplay, it should be repeated that movement and pace are largely confined to set parameters, but you can affect the latter to a certain extent with the brake option. This, however, has a tendency to clash with the organization and setup. As zombies walk towards you and other elements gradually wind closer to you from the top to the bottom screen, you also have another set of zombies giving chase from behind but will only spring forward to attack if your rate of acceleration weakens for more than two seconds. Ignoring the fact that it doesn't make a great deal of sense how the enemies are coming at you from both directions, the overall pace the game moves at is on the slower side, made more apparent as you have to take wide turns to weave past enemies on a frequent basis. What causes this to drop to a state of ineffective course of activity is, not just when you sustain damage and make those sorts of turns. On a more serious note, it's really a fault of the design itself.
The game has a bad habit of forcing you to make tight squeezes, which isn't just limited to when trying to pick up one of the damsels who need rescuing, but really on a general level, just as you're moving about trying to dodge incoming threats. And oftentimes you'll find that slowing down your movement is being regularly prompted as levels start to have such obstacles as cars shooting by from side openings along the path. And the measure put in place to circumvent anyone from taking an easy way out ultimately proves to be a nuisance in the way it breaches your immediate and sudden strategies to avoid getting struck by an obstacle -- an action that was and is constantly being triggered by the game, no less!
Furthering this offense is how the game willfully places groups of enemies and deadly traps such as guillotines directly in front of the girls you need to rescue, if not using combined forces of both what's in front and another threat coming on the side, done to make sure that your escape, if you so manage to rescue the civilian, won't guarantee that you'll come unharmed. This forces you to, again, brake as the only method of possible retrieval and survival, and with the placement of these threats then having you steer rather haphazardly away from them, you're bound to be impacted by the encroaching hands closely behind you. The game is evil the way it's designed like this, and the manipulation that is required hammers you with this reminder that the experience is being stinted or even derailed by reason of sloppy, poorly-considered mechanics.
Zombie Skape also doesn't seem to have its head on straight as far as the rules it abides by. The game is not consistent about how much or how little damage will be inflicted because of a particular obstacle, and it is even such that a full life supply is sometimes disregarded completely. A crash in the same spot or over the same entity that leaves you with a minor scrap one session, might instantly result in your undoing the next time around.
Interestingly, the goal of the game is to get the highest score possible by gathering as many civilians as you can, but if you end up dying, the game won't reset your counter back to how it was when you first entered the level, making the game somewhat broken in that, if you really desired, you can exploit the scoring by purposely losing a life near the end of a level so as to go through it a second time for a continued gathering of points. On a similar note, even with enemies appearing near the foremost edges on the side, it is possible to hug to the left or right and avoid drama for extended periods of time, which might seem like a way of getting out of the silliness of the design if it were not for the caveat that it takes an obvious amount away from the difficulty.
I've already touched on it, but just to make the point clear: The overall production quality is hardly exemplary. Although the visuals of the levels are hardly terrible, the artwork is very much rough around the edges. I must say, too, that the music is pretty awful and at times sounds like it's in an MIDI format. I have a hunch that the intent was to allude to retro games, but there are ways of doing this while still having a good hold on the present concept and all that it implies. Either way, Zombie Skape's music does nothing for it. The sound effects are a bit better at least, but there is slowdown to be noted that can get on the bad side in one or two areas.
Zombie Skape can be seen to completion in about 15 minutes time, with difficulty settings offering only changes in health leniency. Otherwise, there is absolutely nothing further to gain or explore here (not that there was anything positive from the get-go anyway). The result of the design problems actually don't frustrate as much as you might picture them to, but rather facilitate a boredom that the overall aesthetic doesn't take kindly to or seems in association with. It's archaic and horrid, and while it isn't as ugly of a mess as it could have been (considering that it runs on the same engine as Crazy Hunter), it's almost unreal how this all fails to come together when it's so straightforward.
It's painful to see Zombie Skape flounder and that it is unable to recover or pull itself up from its ill state of grogginess. Besides just the environment not breeding any kind of thrill and failing to generate worthy amounts of enjoyment, its inconsiderate design is what makes it bad and ultimately incapable of getting its act together. Brave as it is to settle for weak cultivation, I fail to see how anything present here in its execution could have warrant.
10/30 - Very Poor
Gameplay 4/10 - Doesn't abide by its own rules with consistency, linear setup that doesn't work all that well, flawed and haphazard design
Presentation 5/10 - Good colour scheme, some weak aspects take away from the forcefulness of the aesthetic, audio could've definitely been better
Enjoyment 1/5 - Issues surprisingly make the game more boring than frustrating, not as thrilling as the presentation might suggest
Extra Content 0/5 - Very short even for the kind of game that it is, leaderboards offer no motivation to keep playing, difficulty remains the same
Equivalent to a score of 33% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System