OMG HD Zombies PS Vita Review

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Shambling onto the PS Vita and evolving from its original (still non-human) form as a PS Mini title, OMG HD Zombies takes the well-received, addictive game to Sony’s latest handheld. But does this update of the monochromatic masterpiece do enough to engage the audience, or is it merely another game jumping on the undead bandwagon to make a quick buck?

Set in the fictional city of Redfield (Resident Evil-inspired, surely… I know), you play the part of a lone rifleman armed with only a couple of bullets with which to clear the entire screen of the aimlessly lumbering undead. With a well-placed shot, it is possible to clear the entire undead population and work your way through the various locations to freedom.

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If you’re already sighing to yourself as you lump this game into the category of countless other undead shooters already out there, you’ll be pleased to know this isn’t an action shooter shamelessly exploiting the de rigeur undead craze – it’s actually a puzzle/chain-reaction game.

There are various undead types, ranging from the civilian, bloated, policemen, bilious zombies, runner, and mortar zombies; each of these has a different death reaction. By triggering these reactions (dependent upon the health level) through taking careful aim, you are able to create some crazy chains, which in some cases results in you seeing the almost-balletic spray of blood spewing forth from each shambling corpse in a display of wonderful choreography.

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Bilious zombies melt into a pool of acid (which has a temporary damaging effect on anything within the immediacy); Mortar zombies’ heads explode (firing into the sky in a mortar-like effect); and Runners unleash a blood-curdling scream before running in a straight line, taking out any zombie near it (just like the Kamikaze function in Worms). Personally, my favourite undead to dispatch and create a chain with were the bloated and army types – the bloated taking out those within a short radius, and the army type unleashing a hail of bullets as they fell and dissolved. Randomly-placed explosive barrels also add to the chain scoring proceedings by enabling you to hit many zombies within the blast radius and watch as events unfold.

Essentially this is the same game some of you may have played as the quite popular PS Mini game back in 2011, but with a few changes. First, the blurry (yet still rather good) visuals have been spruced-up, now sporting the ‘HD’ tagline to imply high-definition visuals. Also a new zombie (the Runner) has been added, along with the addition of in-game purchases. I’ll be honest: Visually, the game isn’t as sharp as it could be. It could have been made a little sharper to take full advantage of that beautiful OLED screen. But it’s still an improvement, easily allowing you differentiate between the zombie types without issue.

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OMG HD Zombies features over 80 levels – each one replayable – and you will need to replay the levels if you want to get over 80% (never mind that seemingly ever-elusive 100%) completion. There are also plenty of rewards to be attained. As you progress, you are rewarded with cash to be spent on in-game upgrades. One option allows you to upgrade the radius of explosive damage for each of the zombies, and another, the damage dealt from bullets. Leveling-up your character, however, increases the likelihood of obtaining higher clear percentiles and also the chance to gain more medals, which will unlock extra levels as you progress. The randomised nature of the levels and zombie positions enables each level to feel truly unique. No level replay will ever be the same – which for a game that requires that you grind on occasion, is a boon. There are some IAP (in app purchases); these add the Zit grenades that enable you to clear the screen of zombies. It’s safe to say I didn’t buy any of these, nor do you need them to complete your objectives.

Environments are lovely, pre-rendered, monochrome levels, resembling something fresh out of The Walking Dead graphic novels and changing as you progress through each. What you see on the screen is the whole level – there’s no scrolling outside the immediate field-of-view. Cutscenes are provided in the form of graphic-novel style cutaways. The art here is fairly simple but more than effective at setting the tone. Audio-wise, the game is more than adequate, though it does nothing to push the envelope. Gun sounds do the job; the best parts are the various squelching noises that are emitted from the zombies as the bullets hit them, combined with the screams and explosions of the bodies this is where the audio is at its best. However, I tired of the audio, muting the game and listening to a podcast whilst playing.

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Taking aim with the original game, you would use the analogue nub and move around a cursor to aim each shot. This time, to take advantage of the touch screen technology, you simply tap where you would like to shoot. In an ideal world, this would be quick and highly reactive. Sadly, I felt like I was wrestling more against the games tactile input than attempting to thwart the zombie horde. The touch input is pretty shaky and nowhere near as accurate as you would like it to be in a game where accuracy is key, especially when you are trying to create huge sequence chains to clear the entire screen. Maybe with a pinch-to-zoom element added in, touch control would be far more enjoyable.

As a result, switching over to the cursor controls made OMG HD Zombies far more bearable to play, and even fun as a result. However, even the cursor-controlled shooting isn’t totally accurate. More work could and should have been done to ensure that hit-zones had been refined further. The hit-and-miss nature takes away from OMG HD Zombies, turning it into a frustrating affair. Maybe I am just a tad impatient? I don’t know, but I have played the game over numerous occasions in the last few weeks, and I am adamant it’s not me but the game’s failings.

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OMG HD Zombies is more of a refinement than an evolution of the original. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But I do think Laughing Jackal should have spent more time calibrating the tactile input on the touch screen. If this was fixed, I would have been more willing to give the game a higher score. As it stands, touch control accuracy on a densely-populated screen is sketchy at best. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad game; it is enjoyable, and some people will find it far more compelling than most. But I find it hard to gain heaps of enjoyment when I spend much of my time wrestling with the god-awful touch control mechanism. I would still recommend this as an interesting and fun game to play, providing you switch the controls to the analogue-controlled cursor. You will get far more satisfaction from knowing you actually have some chance of hitting your intended target.

7/10

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Version tested: PS Vita

Developer: BlackHiveMedia

Publisher: Laughing Jackal

Genre: Puzzle