Review: I, Zombie

A little bite of gameplay.

By Joshua A. Johnston. Posted 04/10/2018 12:15 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Retro production values; simple but effective puzzle elements; a useful level editor that includes a decent-sized online repository.
Poison Mushroom for...
Not a lot of gameplay depth; some movement headaches; a restart button right next to the other buttons.

There are times a gamer wants a massive adventure, and other times a gamer simply wants a brief diversion. Smartphones can certainly provide no shortage of the second type, but it’s also nice to be able to get the short-term fix on a system, too. Nintendo’s eShop, like online shops for other systems, has become home to an ever-growing number of small indie developers that can fit that niche. I, Zombie, which currently retails for $4.99 on the Switch eShop, doesn’t try to satisfy your inner Final Fantasy cravings. Instead, this little puzzler is about putting you in the role of a zombie whose job it is to eat other zombies.

I, Zombie‘s production values are straight out of the 1990s, and mostly for the better. The graphics are old-school, 16-bit stuff, with humans and zombies alike having plenty of cartoonish character, if not much variation in their appearances. The music is a bit whimsical, emphasizing that this is closer to a cartoon than Night of the Living Dead, as the game is T-rated and the blood element is relatively minor.

Each level is a single screen, with the goal to zombify either all the humans, or, in a few cases, a specific target. There is a growing amount of resistance as the levels progress, including armed humans. Damage slows down the zombie horde. If your main zombie dies, it’s all over. Levels ramp up significantly in difficulty as the campaign progresses, and most gamers will likely need several tries on some of the later levels to get through. Fortunately, the player gets help from a few places. For one, all zombies, including the main one, regenerate damage (and, by extension, run speed) after being damage-free for a short time. In addition, the levels provide places to find cover, making a big part of the game seeking out shelter to nurse wounds before continuing on.

The controls, which make all this happen, are simple. The left joystick controls the zombie, while the face buttons control your zombie horde: Y makes them follow, the A button makes them stop and B makes them attack. The controls are generally pretty responsive, for both the main zombie and its minions, although there are a couple of isolated quirks. Specific members of the horde, for example, can sometimes get caught up rounding corners, although this is an infrequent occurrence. Also, when zombies are sent to attack, they will indiscriminately attack whoever is the closest human target, which is not always the target you may have in mind. The X button is mapped to an automatic restart, and while this is meant to be a convenience, it’s actually sort of a pain. Many levels are hard enough that losing even one zombie means you won’t be able to finish a level, so a restart can save some time in those cases. But it’s also easy to accidentally hit the restart button while trying to command the zombies. On a couple of occasions, this reviewer was halfway through the level when he did just that, which produces no shortage of frustration. Unfortunately, there is no way to disable or re-map this button.

The main campaign is only a few dozen levels or so, but I, Zombie adds some depth with an easy-to-use level editor and the ability to upload levels online. This second part is really nice, because it means there is a repository of user-created levels online in addition to the ones provided by the game. Another nice touch is a rating system for the user-created levels, so players can see which levels have been well-received and which have not. At the time of this review, there are a decent number of user levels, too, so there is plenty to experience beyond the main campaign.

That said, at a certain point it becomes clear that there is only so much variation this game can provide, especially given that there are no power-ups, enhancements, or the like to change up the formula. There is a timer and a 3-star system to grade a player’s efforts in each level, but beyond that, there isn’t a ton of replay incentive, and after a while it feels like different verses of the same song. To be fair, though, this isn’t a $50 game. It’s a $5 game, and when you compare it to other $5 games on Switch and elsewhere, it handles itself decently.

So, is it worth a look? Players who enjoy bite-sized puzzlers (with a bit of challenge to boot) and the ability to create their own levels might find this worth trying out. If you’re looking for something deeper, though, be mindful that, in this case, you’re not going to get much more than you’re paying for.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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