It was Christmas morning. I had been given the usual forgettable gifts; Socks, pants, a miniature palaeontology set. But under the tree, one last present remained. A Sega Megadrive, my first console. Bundled with a starter cartridge that contained the iconic characters that made the Megadrive such a success, it also held the side-scrolling brawler, Streets of Rage. Endless hours melted away as me and my sister would pair up to battle as our favourite characters through each level. They were some of my fondest memories. Now Bloody Zombies looks to re-capture some of that nostalgia, while updating the genre with a more modern touch.
London has been left to fend for itself as the undead has overrun the capital. The only saviours are a team of four heroes who have stayed within the city, in order to recapture it from the zombies. The main objective is to obtain key cards, which will eventually allow you access into the source of the outbreak. By some coincidence, all of these key cards are contained within the stomach of the bosses at the end of each level… perhaps they’d gotten tired of eating humans? Bloody Zombies’ cell shading style immediately strikes you with its resemblance of the old school brawler. You are dropped into a dilapidated London. Abandon police cars hug the curb, buildings have been desecrated and, yes, there’s numerous mutated zombies approaching. Traffic cones, crates, road barriers- all are no match for you, as you punch and kick whatever blocks your path.
The modern touch I previously mentioned appears in the way of skills. As you progress through, you unlock new attacks that you use against your undead foes. These are either dropped at certain points throughout each level, or can be purchased from shops dotted throughout the game. Using the attacks can shift the balance into your favour, but it’s not bottomless; using it will drain energy, so make sure you’re using it wisely.
While the aesthetic looks fine, the frustration of Bloody zombies lies within the gameplay itself. The game was originally a VR title for steam, allowing the person to gain a precise perspective on the action. This may work perfectly well on Steam, but through Xbox the depth perception is difficult to register. Bloody Zombies creates a series of 2D lanes that your hero can move up and down, seemingly switching lanes as he goes. The mutated zombies approaching you use the same mechanic, but with the default camera angle you can’t really determine whether you are lined up with them, so a lot of the time I ended up looking like Basil Fawlty, waving my fist to thin air. Add on the difficulty of the game (which I had on normal and was incredibly difficult for myself) it needs that precision to work, in order for you too save every last ounce of your health.
Before you drop into the level, you have to choose your hero. With any 2D brawler I have picked up before, this is an important choice. Do you go with more strength, but less agility? Or do you choose health over strength? Well… Bloody Zombies leaves all of those decisions behind, because the different heroes don’t have any different attributes at all. They are basically just character skins. While having all your skills carry over throughout gives you a good familiarity on your characters move set, this is outweighed by the sheer lack of uniqueness that you feel when playing with each hero.
The lack of uniqueness of each hero also hampers the co-op experience slightly. With Street of Rage and other various 2D brawler, the first fight wasn’t within the game itself, it was on the couch. Arguments would ensue, to see who would get to play as their favourite character (Blaze was always the one for me.). Theres none of that here, just pick a skin and go. That aside, when you finally jumped into a full co-op mission, Bloody Zombies starts to become a much more enjoyable experience. Continuing on a combo after your partner has laid an uppercut, finishing off the Boss battle with two timed special attacks, they were all the highlights that I took away.