Tag Archives: kill all your friends

REVIEW: ApocZ

Though I haven’t played it, DayZ has been an enlightening watch on the various YouTubes and Twitches dedicated to it’s unique brand of zombie slaying. Or should I say human slaying? The zombies have pretty much been forgotten, and instead, it’s the human versus human fight that’s been the primary antagonism. Often hilarious (and always sad), it’s been interesting to watch players team up and kill weaker players, loot their corpses, and have a terrific laugh about it (no wonder I’ve lost faith in Humanity). That social experiment now comes to XBLIG as ApocZ ($1.00).

Visually, the game is a stunner. Developer Sick Kreations has always been able to craft superb-looking XBLIGs with their custom engine, and ApocZ is no exception. Excellent shadowing that changes with the day / night cycle, rippling water, and a large, impressive world of various buildings and houses (purely for a pretty show; you can’t enter most). Oh, also a couple thousand zombies, set in four square miles of the Black Sea area in Ukraine. And in light of the recent events there, a zombie apocalypse is probably the last thing they need.

The theme is survival. Much like DayZ… No, exactly like DayZ, the game drops you into the world equipped with the bare minimum (in ApocZ, it’s the clothes on your back, an axe, and a flashlight). From there, it’s on you to combat the dead while foraging for survival gear and weapons. It’s more than just finding a gun, too; it’s the necessities. You’ll have to monitor your food and water, and, if you find yourself in a scrape, you’ll have to patch yourself up to avoid bleeding out.

And with both supplies and zombies clustered around the buildings and houses, you won’t have much of a choice but to get in there and fight. You’ll start small and underpowered, but you can eventually build up to bigger and better, finding guns at abandoned military barracks, backpacks to carry more gear in, even a car / truck to drive between the towns, provided you can find the tires and the fuel to get them up and running.

ApocZ - Screen

Zombies have violated the Ukraine’s territorial integrity. 

Like any end-of-world scenario, there is a finite amount of ammunition, guns, and supplies available on the map. Offline, you won’t face any competition, but if you’re online, and on a full server (up to 16 players), some ‘sacrifices’ will have to be made. And by ‘sacrifices’, I mean many people will die in the rat race towards the rifles. If you’ve jumped into a world, and see dozens of axes and flashlights just laying in the streets, it’s safe to say you’ve joined the wrong party. ApocZ is a game best enjoyed with friends, not randoms, if for no other reason than to have somebody watching your back.

Be forewarned: even with friends and optimal conditions, the online portion isn’t perfect. Though the majority of the initial launch issues have been sorted out, connections and syncing with other players can still be sketchy. Plenty of games I joined saw players popping in and out, zombies just standing around without attacking, floating / disappearing supplies, etc. The developers are keen to work out those issues, though, and along with the budget price tag, it’s hard to find enough viable reasons this wouldn’t be an immediate buy for most.

That puts this game almost on the same level with DayZ— a form of acceptable murder, more about the ‘survival of the fittest’ than a zombie game with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Something you can join in, have fun with, and repeat as desired. ApocZ might not be as involved or offer as large a world as its inspiration, but it’s a very solid alternative for console gamers looking to get in on the action.

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This review is also featured at Indiepitome

REVIEW: The Useful Dead

The Useful Dead ($1.00) is all about leading adorable critters to the exit, working around obstacles and hazards, solving the puzzle, and sacrificing your pals for the greater good when required (hence the title). There’s been some discussion as to its originality, and it’s true that other games like it exist, notably the free-to-play SeppuKuties. The closest relative in the XBLIG family tree would be Cute Things Dying Violently (the title really tells it all there), though The Useful Dead does offer direct control, placing it more in the platformer genre.

Regardless of inspiration, puzzler / platformers are ultimately judged by their ingenuity and design. Here, variety starts and ends in the way your unfortunate partners-in-treasure-seeking die, be it by impalement, fire, falling from great heights, etc. Morbid as it is (if you really stop to think about it), those bodies then become valuable currency within the level, ‘useful’ as stepping stones to higher platforms, weights for switches, or as fodder for the stampers, happily taking the no-longer-painful ‘squish’ on your behalf and allowing you to pass freely.

Though you start with a large reserve of critters at your service, it doesn’t stay that way for long. Each stage comes with a ‘par’ number of allies that can (and usually, must) be deaded during the course of finding a solution. Completion need not be flawless, with ten of the creatures listed as expendable, and opportunities to collect ‘additional lives’, if you will, by coming in under par on certain levels. Any mistakes can be reset by restarting the current stage, too, making it more about personal satisfaction than a pressing issue you need to constantly be aware of.

It can also be argued that a lot of the game’s levels are rather easy, and the goal doesn’t change; all involve the death of a few cute creatures. In most, the solution is either immediately noticeable or soon apparent, and experimentation will get you the rest of the way to that ‘a-ha moment’. They’re not all pushovers, mind you. A handful of stages will require some thought, but The Useful Dead is definitely not as taxing to the brain as it could have been, more about timing and placement than prolonged head-scratching. You’ll either enjoy that change of pace or wish for something sterner. I appreciated the balance.

The Useful Dead - Screen

The only ‘good’ friend is a dead friend.

Whatever camp you fall into, The Useful Dead is an enjoyable experience. Its tricks may be telling to some at the outset, though there’s enough clever design in the puzzles to keep others on their toes. Much like in the previously-mentioned titles, you’ll gladly kill off plenty of cute things with a smile on your face.

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Review on Indie Gamer Chick