As a classically trained gamer, I have put a few hours into most genre-defining games out there. Lemmings is no exception, and I’ve had the pleasure of playing the preservation puzzler across a number of iterations and platforms. While I would hesitate to label myself competent (a statement supported by the large number of the blue shirted, green haired bastards I’ve sent to an untimely death), I think I have done alright with my time in this genre. It has always been surprising to me, however, that there are not more games with similar puzzling aspects to Lemmings. Well, that has changed with the release of Zombie Night Terror from developer NoClip and publisher Gambitious Digital Entertainment.
Zombie Night Terror places players at the origin of a good ol’ zombie apocalypse. True to classic form, the walking dead are not particularly bright and have a tendency to simply shuffle in a direction until something blocks their path, at which point they swivel and walk the other way. Not too dangerous, as you might imagine. Thankfully, the unthinking undead have an ominous and evil intelligence available to help guide them to a vicious victory: you.
Similar in scope and form to Lemmings, Zombie Night Terror stays largely true to its genre patient zero, while also mutating a multitude of new features and improvements on the old formula. Most levels will begin with the entrance of a few zombies at one end of the level, and simply asking that you shepherd your corpse comrades to an exit on the other end, dodging dangers and feasting on flesh as you go. This is the most traditional Zombie Night Terror gets in adhering to the established norm. The game wastes little time in breaking away from the tried and true to blaze its own bloody path. For instance, some levels will charge the player with devouring a certain number of humans scattered across the scene instead. Others change things up even further, challenging players to beat assorted bosses or defeat pesky humans in a foot race. There is a surprising amount of refreshing variety here.
Beyond the changes in goals, the obstacles and dangers have gotten a sweet zombie facelift as well (don’t picture that). While certainly susceptible to the same sorts of death and dismemberment, inducing perils as their lemming cousins, Zombie Night Terror ramps up the risk. Still present are old mainstays like perilous pits, deadly drops, and treacherous traps. Joining them are several human hindrances as well. In many levels, these pesky brain-wrappers will bring guns, clubs, and automobiles to bear against you and your horde. One armed human is more than a match for a singular zombie, and will often clear small hordes if the player does not apply some strategic thinking and skulduggery. Having your zombies charge, sneak, or jump to their human foes is a must if you wish to see your shuffling sidekicks win the day.
The addition of humans to each map has allowed NoClip to make another interesting modification to a genre staple. Where Lemmings normally has your mindless marchers entering from one end of the screen en masse, Zombie Night Terror wrinkles this metric by allowing (and sometimes forcing) the player to replace his zombie stocks in a very traditional way – by killing humans. Dead humans, whether ended by Zed or by other (often hilarious) means will normally stand back up and join your moaning ranks. This allows you some interesting strategies, like scaring humans into jumping to their deaths, and ending up with zombies in a place you normally couldn’t reach. Compound that with limited ability in certain levels to infect healthy humans with a deadly plague, that nearly instantaneously turns them, and you’ve got yourself a handy, groundbreaking new tool.
Speaking of powerups, Zombie Night Terror handles these a bit differently as well. In keeping with tradition, you still have access to a modification that roots one of your minions in place to direct traffic. You can further modify these “Overlord” zombies, allowing them to hurl your shamblers over obstacles (like some creepy undead catapult), or explode for larger damage. As the player, you can use both the jumping and explosion on regular minions as well, with the jump being a one-time use and the explosion for a regular Zed being a bit smaller. Other powerups include the infection option described earlier, a short term “run” powerup to help in timed missions and zombie spacing, a “tank mode” powerup, projectile vomit, and a sacrifice button to regain DNA points for further use.
That’s right, you’ll be managing DNA as a resource. You will use this resource to apply the aforementioned powerups to your minions, and it’s limited. It can be gained in a number of ways, including picking up glowing barrels or sacrificing your own minions, who melt into a puddle when redeemed for DNA. This addition, when used in particular levels, adds a large amount of puzzle solving, as you work against the level success goals to ensure you get enough zombies to the finish line, whilst also having enough points to modify your minions in the ways they need to be.
Zombie Night Terror also absolutely drips with corpse-like charm. The majority of the game’s graphics are done up in grayscale, making the presence of green and red (for powerups and blood, respectively) really pop on the screen. The 8-bit-esque graphics are great in my opinion (though I will admit a fondness for 8-bit as a whole), and the level and character design, along with animations, show a good amount of polish. The sound is about what you would expect, with zombies groaning about, while humans essentially speak a form a Simlish with word bubble dialogue attached. The humans will aid you in your quest to eradicate them by routinely spouting lines just over the douchebag line, likely galvanizing your desire to consume them.
All in all, Zombie Night Terror is an excellent new take on a classic puzzling formula. While not quite groundbreaking, I am honestly surprised that a few thematic changes could add so much to an already excellent gametype. The game mechanics pair appropriately with the setting, resulting in a product that does exactly what it sets out to do – reanimates a gametype that has been largely dead for a number of years. If you are a fan of Lemmings, or puzzle games in general, Zombie Night Terror is absolutely worth a look. Bear in mind however, this game is fairly difficult. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself moaning about braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiinssssss after a short amount of play.
Note: This game was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.