Rock Zombie (Wii U) Review

By Luna Eriksson 08.12.2014

Review for Rock Zombie on Wii U

Rock Zombie is a modern take on a genre that died long ago, a genre that went from being in the centre of gaming to an obscure side genre where little attention was given to it. Rock Zombie is itself a zombie of a time long lost.

In the 1980s and '90s, arcade halls were all over the place, with games in genres ranging from pinball to beat 'em ups. All had a style and an attitude that even today is unmatched. With pulsating rock music and cool neon lights, the cabinets did all in their power to make the visitors put their money into them for a fast rush of action - all aiming for a spot on the local high score list and having a blast while getting there. Rock Zombie tries to replicate that feel and attitude on the Wii U eShop. Sadly, though, it turns out to be a mere zombie of the games of the old.

Rock Zombie will, at first glance, feel like an old-school arcade beat 'em up. The rock music - with its heavy guitar riffs and the raw, sheer coolness - makes the game pulsate when starting it up, doubtlessly taking its audience back in time. Even the menus and character selection might fool people into feeling like this is a good old arcade title, yet five minutes in and the magic rubs off.

Screenshot for Rock Zombie on Wii U

The story in Rock Zombie is taken from an old-school arcade game with its focus on raw coolness and rebelliousness. Three zombie-slaying witches have started a rock band called Zombie Rock and during one of their concerts zombies invade and it is up to them to defeat them and find out what happened. During the story they find out that a military conspiracy that went wrong is behind the zombie outbreak. Exactly everything that anyone ever went into an arcade hall to experience is present, so how could it go wrong?

The gameplay itself is the answer. What many great arcade games, and titles in general, have in common is that they are simple to pick up and learn, but difficult to master and beat - this with the added punishment of permanent deaths always lurking in the background. While Rock Zombie does have that feature on its higher difficulty, it is not mandatory and the difficulty level of the game itself is laughable, at best.

Screenshot for Rock Zombie on Wii U

The issue with the difficulty comes with many layers. First off is the magic system presented, which is a sheer game-breaker. The idea of a limited resource that is extremely powerful to help in tough situations is an old feature of the arcade games. However, that is dependent on that resource actually being limited. While there is indeed a magic meter, it refills at too high a rate for it to feel limited and for the player to hesitate before using it. This creates an experience where any challenge at all presented can easily be brushed to one side. To some unknowing souls this might appear as anti-frustration features, yet to any true arcade gamer it is heresy, and straight up cheating. Arcade titles have a focus on challenge and the objective of overcoming challenges against all odds by slowly learning after several attempts how best to tackle a specific enemy. Another layer is in the extremely simple and horribly shallow enemies offered. The main mooks are mindless zombies that can simply be ignored and attacked by spamming the action button to kill them. Once in a blue moon, however, a bigger zombie appears that has ranged attacks - this can simply be killed by using the almost infinite magic meter. Later on, marines appear that can also be killed extremely easily by using the ridiculously generous magic meter. Even if the player uses the magic at any mob that poses real danger, the magic level is so high that nobody will ever be at risk of reaching a low level.

The gameplay itself, besides being too easy, is also very clumsy and slow, which is painfully obvious on the motorcycle stages that appear from time to time. This is a horrible flaw in any good arcade title that focuses on an adrenaline-filled experience that comes from speed and constant danger. In its defence, however, the controls are very responsive most of the time.

Screenshot for Rock Zombie on Wii U

In addition to all of this, the game also poses poor longevity, mainly due to the low amount of challenge. There is almost no replay value unless wanting to unlock everything included. This is bad as the game is around three hours long and will tap out at around 12 hours if playing with 'permadeath' on. There have been longer demos than this, which is obviously no compliment, and the low challenge does not encourage anyone to retry it to better their scores/times.

What's left is a zombie from the past that does not know that it's dead yet. The best thing that can be done is to close the lid and mourn what was once one of the greatest genres of its time, but understand that time has simply moved on. Maybe in the future a successful reanimation of the side-scrolling beat 'em up arcade genre will be release, but until then the best way to spend time is to play the classics instead of these new cheap copies that simply lack the magic the old games had.

Screenshot for Rock Zombie on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 5 out of 10


Rock Zombie is playing on nostalgia from the time when arcade halls were everywhere and arcade styled beat 'em up titles were flooding the console market - the 'Golden Age' of arcade games. Sadly, however, due to misbalanced difficulty and an overly simplistic fighting system and enemy design, the game falls flat. Even with 'permadeath,' the difficulty never feels threatening and the adrenaline never pumps like it should. It all feels cold and lifeless, just like the zombies that this game is focused on killing. It is time to put the lid back on the coffin again and hope the next try to revive this genre in the West is more successful.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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