Zombie Incident (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 28.02.2015

Review for Zombie Incident on Nintendo 3DS

Games made nowadays for older platforms such as the NES are enjoying quite a bit of success. Many older chaps are indeed very happy to be able to take out their old console from the bottom of a closet, dust it off and boot it up with a brand new, freshly produced game for a system that's already provided lots of hours of pleasure. Every once in a while those games get ported to digital platforms in order to make them widely available for the masses. The MSX, like the NES, is still enjoying some popularity among old school gamers as newer games still get developed for it in the hands of hobbyist coders. Cubed3 reviewed La-Mulana on WiiWare a while back, not developed directly for the MSX but instead for the PC as a Freeware title, which paid a big homage to the MSX in general, and to Knightmare II: The Maze of Galious, in particular. The title at hand this time, Zombie Incident, was completed in 2011 by Spanish developer Nenefranz, directly for the original MSX hardware as an entry into the MSXdev'11 coding competition - a competition he won with this very title! This one was apparently inspired by another indie ZX Spectrum title from 2010 by the name of Cheril Perils and this freshly released 3DS version was ported by Spanish publisher and developer CoderChild. It's now time to dive in and find out what all the fuss is about.

Hamartia, a citadel where a lot of people lived, has become host to a horde of monstrous creatures. Zombie creatures. Nobody dares to approach the damned place... except for Nana, the heroine of the game, of course, who goes there to reclaim the eight golden stars. It's unclear why she would want to do that, but they seem to hold some sort of ancient wisdom, so that must make them valuable enough for her to risk her life... and risk becoming a zombie herself, to go in there and get them back. Said stars are sealed within locked rooms of the citadel, and the goal of the game is to find, collect, and bring them back to the entrance in a side-scrolling platforming action adventure. The citadel is made up of 64 rooms, each being a separate screen à la Prince of Persia. For the record, the MSX wasn't known for its scrolling capabilities; it was still possible to get scrolling out of the system, but it wasn't at all its forté, so many games on the system, the most popular of which probably being the original Metal Gear, were designed without scrolling and used separate screens to render different locations. Zombie Incident is built with that in mind. Each room is inhabited by a varying amount of zombies, and in any screen containing a door to a locked room where a star might be located, every zombie creature on-screen must be defeated in order to unlock the door and check inside.

These locked rooms also act as save points. Entering one of them automatically makes a permanent save of the progress so far. Attempting to leave the game will prompt the player with a message that all current progress will be lost, however, this is only true for any progress made since last exiting a save room and, unfortunately, this is left for the player to figure out. The manual does speak of saving but the information described therein is simply too vague. If going for a true old school style of leaving even that to be figured out, it should at least have been explained better in the digital manual! However, once that information is fathomed out, this is not anymore a problem, thankfully.

Screenshot for Zombie Incident on Nintendo 3DS

Exploring the citadel in search of those aforementioned rooms is a pleasant experience on the whole. It might be tempting to think that bopping repeatedly on the heads of undead creatures until they are dead for good, room after room, patiently, would be so repetitive that its gets boring, but it isn't so at all. Zombie Incident has a distinct kind of Metroidvania flavour to it. Indeed, there's a sort of experience level system going on, where upon killing enough enemies, Nana's strength level will increase, allowing her to inflict damage on zombies that were invincible before, and there's a rewarding feeling when the impossible eventually becomes possible. The map on the bottom screen conveniently shows rooms that have been wiped clean of enemies in blue, those holding enemies still invincible at current level in red, and in green are those where enemies are left but can currently be defeated, which is very convenient and helps in knowing what's left to be done.

The pure platforming parts of the game, however, are not so easily mastered. Jumping feels good and is easily performed, yet the wall jumping ability included is not so easily mastered or understood at first. The way it works is that by jumping towards a wall and pressing the D-Pad or Circle Pad in the direction of the wall while Nana is at the uppermost part of her jump will make her perform a wall-jump automatically. This is easy enough to understand but proves harder to put into action. Occasionally, totally by accident, wall jumps will occur as a player keeps the button pressed while jumping across a gap or towards an enemy, and comes in contact with a wall, forcing an unwanted wall jump, which can lead to accidentally hitting another enemy flying by and taking damage... or literally sending the player to a different screen above, where an unseen enemy was just flying by at that moment.

Screenshot for Zombie Incident on Nintendo 3DS

Thankfully, the game starts with Nana having plenty of energy to get by. However, on a first play-through, going in not knowing what to expect can lead to unpleasant experiences. If gamers are not careful enough, their energy can go too low, and random energy refills for clearing an entire screen of its enemies tend to be scarce when still gaining strength levels, and since the game automatically saves upon entering those aforementioned rooms, going in and fooling around at first could end up leaving a save file with only one or two health bars left, thus wasting time having to carefully use the saves to travel around, clearing rooms one by one, and going back to a save point in order to carefully collect enough health to be back to a comfortable level to play without worrying about any potential instant deaths. Laborious, right? Being careful from the start won't make the player run into this issue for sure, but it's unfortunate nonetheless and should be noted. Zombie Incident truly isn't an easy game.

Some enemies are also placed so close to a ceiling at times that it's nearly impossible to bop them on their heads without taking damage. It's not a problem if energy is conscientiously kept high from the start, of course, but in cases like mentioned above, this can be really troublesome. In other cases, enemies are simply placed in locations where there's only a tiny window where they can be hit because they otherwise fly just along a low ceiling and, therefore, cannot be hit until they come out from under it. Therefore, there is a need to wait for them to come back, and seeing them sometimes even adopting a move pattern where they will come Nana's way and then turn back again just before they can be hit again can be really frustrating, even more so when a weakened enemy left without being hit for too long will regenerate its life.

Screenshot for Zombie Incident on Nintendo 3DS

However, despite those gripes, it still manages to hook with its inexplicable charm. The system wherein the starting colour of an enemy dictates what level it is, determining whether or not it can be damaged at current strength level or not, and also indicating the amount of hits left to kill it, is really clever, even if some colours look very similar to one another, like two shades of green and red for example, which can cause some confusion at first.

The soundtrack was remade specifically for this new version. While the original MSX iteration used the PSG music capabilities of the hardware, this new one is made to sound exactly as it would on a real MSX if it had its FM-Synth extra audio add-on attached to it, a feature that, unfortunately, couldn't be implemented in time for the original MSX edition but could be incorporated without any problem in the case of this 3DS eShop release. There are not too many different music tracks available, though. Apart from a couple tracks playing in key situations, the main music heard while playing will always be the same single track. Saying that, the game being very short in nature means it will be over before the music has any chance to lose its enchanting charm. Speaking of game length, there are two different endings, a good and bad one, in true Metroidvania fashion. Advice to first time players, though: don't press any buttons during the ending sequences as it skips through it altogether without any notice, which is another small annoying thing.

The visuals have been considerably improved over the original incarnation. Not quite as drastic a change as was the case for La-Mulana, which barely looked like its original counterpart after it was given the remake treatment, but still a noticeable cosmetic change for the better, which brings it more between 8-bit and 16-bit in terms of level of detail and mostly in terms of amount of colours.

Screenshot for Zombie Incident on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Zombie Incident is not without a couple of annoying factors at times, and some decisions in terms of game design do seem odd. Saying that, though, the feeling it provides coming out of playing it is a good one - a rewarding sense of accomplishment. It has enough charm to outweigh most of its shortcomings. Through its new 3DS coat of paint, it is obvious why it won the competition back in 2011, and, given its low price on the eShop, it can confidently be recommended to anybody interested in the concept, or fans of old-school indie games. Give this one a shot and be assured that, whether or not the same kind of occasional frustrations are experienced, gamers are likely to get hooked and end up not regretting the small monetary investment.

Developer

CoderChild

Publisher

CoderChild

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

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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