Zombie Smashers X2
Meet the Zombie Smashers. They're a group of punks who, er, smash zombies. Not a job you'd envisage happening often, perhaps, but you'd be surprised. They'll also smash other things, such as vampires, ninjas, Nazis, pirates, mummies, metalheads, robots and any combination of the above. But especially zombies.
The game begins with Diggs, a young man with a problem. The local nightclub is teeming with zombies (no, he isn't confusing them with ravers) and they've kidnapped his sister. Your mission is to battle your way in and rescue her. Easy! But then - where are these zombies coming from? A vital clue leads you to the cemetary, and from then on you'll be visiting the docks, the Interweb, France, Tokyo, the Moon and eventually... ah, but that would spoil it!
Along the way are many side missions, including a series of tangles with ninjas, obtaining french bread (which is apparently very expensive), clearing out a vampire blood rave, fighting secret agents on rooftops and many more. Or try your hand at Combat Hoops (a cross between a one-on-one battle and basketball).
Zombie Smashers X2 is a game in the style of Double Dragon, Streets Of Rage and so on. One or two players take on hordes of enemies in a scrolling setting (including streets, alleys, inside buildings and so on) with flurries of punches, kicks and jumps. You can pick things up and use/throw them as weapons, including stunned victims. Unlike some takes on the genre this is a game with a huge variety of moves, weapons and enemies.
The graphics are probably a matter of taste. Many may find they look a little basic - that's just the cartoon style. They may be simple in their look but that just makes the game all the faster. There is also the blood, buckets of it, which can be turned off if you're worried about the kiddies (or if they worry about you).
Sound consists of a range of effects to match all those blows, but more noteworthy are the collection of mpeg tracks that are randomly chosen by the game. These are all ska tunes by a host of independent musicians and groups, which we can replace with our own mp3 files if we don't like them! This is an excellent approach that more games should employ.
You control your fighter with eight keys (not including the ESC key to quit to the menu). These are your four movement directions, a menu key (displaying current missions, items obtained and skills learnt; also pausing the game) and three buttons to punch, kick and jump. When you obtain magic powers, you can activate these by a combination of keystrokes. Alternatively you can plug in a joypad - excellent for two-player fun.
This is a hugely addictive game but one with some longevity issues. A hugely effective and commendable feature is the automatic saving of games - from certain points. If you fail in your mission (ie. get battered to death) you are returned to the nearest such point with half health and half your cash. It is simple enough to return to earlier areas and earn some cash, both to restore lost health and to boost all your stats and skills to Superman levels.
Another major advantage comes from saving $50 and learning some Kung Fu at the tattoo parlour (er...). My experiment with this turned my punk into a lean, mean, punching machine - rapidly hitting the punch button could floor nearly any foes that attacked. After this even the bosses became easier, though guns can still cause problems... until you learn some blocking skills.
These things are minor quibbles, however. The fact is that this reviewer has played Zombie Smashers for a solid month, often to the detriment of food, work or sleep. Anything that distracting HAS to be worth a look.
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