Sometimes, after playing through a particularly deep and involving game, I need a palate cleanser: a game that’s delightfully simple just to reacquaint myself with the real world. That’s the main reason I’ve got DOOM residing on my Xbox’s hard drive. Well, after Batman: Arkham Asylum and its maddening Riddler Challenges, I needed one hell of a cleanser. Enter Konami’s Zombie Apocalypse, a game that makes no apologies for the fact that it’s a shallow, brainless experience.
Fans of games like Smash TV and Robotron (am I dating myself with that one?) will fit right into Zombie Apocalypse’s action: the left analog stick controls your character, and the right stick controls which direction they fire their weapon. Once you pick from your roster of four ethnically varied characters (shades of Left 4 Dead), you’re dropped unceremoniously into one of seven arenas with just one goal: slaughter the mobs of undead without becoming zombie chow.
That’s literally all there is to it: run, shoot, survive, repeat. Normally this sort of repetitiveness would leave me cold, but Zombie Apocalypse handles the horror with a sense of gore-soaked irreverence that’s positively infectious. To start, the arenas are peppered with environmental hazards that score you bonus points if you use them to dispatch your foes. Why simply shoot a zombie dead when you can send them careening into a wood chipper, or a roaring jet engine to meet their juicy end? And even the most ravenous horde of gut munchers can’t resist the siren song of the Zombie Bait: an explosive-packed teddy bear who sounds positively overjoyed as the undead swarm over him, spouting some price lines (“I’m stuffed with love…and C4!”) before he ignites the ravenous crowd. Your character’s even equipped with a chainsaw, a last-ditch weapon that scores you big points for killing with it.
The only downside of this bargain-priced delight is that it does run a little stale across its 56 levels, which are all pulled from the slim pool of seven environments with a few rule variations. As fun as some of these remixes are (the level played in complete blackness except for a pool of light around your character was genuinely scary), trying to power through all 56 levels in one shot (a necessary task if you want to post to the game’s leaderboards) is a daunting feat.
However, in bite-sized sessions, Zombie Apocalypse is pure, unadulterated fun. At 800 Microsoft Points ($10.00 on Playstation Network), it’s a fantastic, bargain-priced kickoff to the Halloween season.