Review: Burn Zombie Burn
There’s a school of thought in gaming, whose proponents claim that a little thing like bad controls shouldn’t ruin a game’s reputation. I am not one of those people. The PS3 game Lair may have been an amazing game, but the god awful control scheme made it a shitty game, and though it saddens me to do so, I considered it bad enough that pregnant women should be advised to avoid it. Burn Zombie Burn (BZB) is almost one of those games. However instead of being painful, its flaws are merely annoying.
BZB is a downloadable game that launched on both Steam and PSN on August 12th, and I bought it on both platforms in the hope that it would be better on the PS3. It wasn’t, but I’ll go into that more later on in this review. BZB is a simple arcade game that is reminiscent of classic titles like Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Rather than follow a set plot or classic narrative level design, BZB is an arena shooter in which players control a character within an enclosed level where they fight respawning hordes of enemies.
Players control Bruce, an odd looking 1950’s chibi cartoon character. Bruce’s 2 main weapons are a pistol and a flaming torch. While the pistol’s use obvious, it’s using the torch that gives BZB its most interesting gameplay mechanic. Zombies fear fire and by deploying the touch, it creates a small safe zone around Bruce. If the torch comes into contact with a zombie it sets the poor ghoul aflame. Fire can spread from zombie to zombie, and the flaming undead will pursue Bruce with increased speed and vigor. They will also do extra damage if they manage to hit Bruce. As the number of burning zombies increases as does the player’s score multiplier; important as killing a single zombie scores between 10 and 50 points (depending on the weapon) and a score of 250,000 points in the first level is required earn a bronze award and thus unlock the second level. Burning zombies also drop better items when killed.
Burn Baby Burn!!
As Bruce navigates the game’s 6 levels, running and dodging past the growing hordes of undead, his primary weapons (shotguns, machine guns, lawnmowers, and miniguns) and secondary weapons (flame throwers and go-go rays) appear randomly throughout the map. While there are only about 6 maps available in the game (there is an ‘in space’ add-on available), it doesn’t seem all that limited as players can choose from one of 4 different game modes. Freeplay requires that players merely survive and try to earn as high a score as possible. Defense puts Bruce in charge of protecting his girlfriend Daisy, who spends the game lounging in the back seat of Bruce’s convertible chewing bubble gum. Daisy has her own health bar and while normal zombies drop Bruce’s health items, only burning zombies will drop Daisy’s. In Timed mode, players start with 5 minutes on the clock, and can pick up extra time power-ups from burning zombies. Finally, in Challenge mode, players are faced with 10 different scenarios. The scenario initially available (the rest have to be unlocked) is called “My exploding zombie head” and it gives players an infinitely reusable, dynamite filled zombie head that Bruce can kick around the map like a soccer ball. Shooting the head sets it off like a bomb, killing everything around it.
As I mentioned above, my main problem with BZB is the control scheme. I originally purchased BZB on Steam and it wasn’t too bad. I loved the concept, and it provided a decent amount of content for the $9.99 price tag. On the PC, Bruce is controlled with the classic WASD keys and the mouse. The keys move Bruce about the map while the mouse is used to control his aim and to attack. I tried a couple of different mice, but none really felt all that responsive, and often I’d find Bruce firing in a direction slightly off from where I was aiming. Hoping that the PS3 version of the game had better controls (2 thumbsticks on the controller) I bought BZB a second time. Much to my dismay, the controls on the PS3 version are actually worse. Rather than have the right thumbstick control which direction Bruce is facing, it’s used to lock-on to nearby zombies if the L2 bumper is being held down. While this has basically the same effect, it means that in order to actually aim while moving around, you have to keep one of the left bumpers pressed down at all times. That being said, it’s still more responsive than the PC version of the game.
The control issue annoyed the hell out of me while playing both versions of BZB, but then I am forced to admit, it’s the only problem I had with the game. It’s a fun little zombie slaying arcade game and much like Castle Crashers, I can see myself spending hours on this one. My advice: Buy it. But if you have the choice, go with the version available on PSN. If you want to go with the version from Steam, you may enjoy the game more if you have a gamepad for your computer.