Zombotron by Ant.Karlov
Zombotron by Ant.Karlov starts off with a fairly simple premise: stranded in an unfamiliar place, find a way to get out. This unfamiliar place quickly turns into a nightmare as the alien living beings on the planet mutate into hideous zombie creatures.
From a narrative standpoint, the game progresses in a linear fashion, while still not expanding enough on its core narrative theme. However, its familiar albeit serviceable narrative takes a back seat to the gameplay.
Run (and Jump) and Gun
I’ve played my fair share of 2D games that incorporate ballistic weapons. Zombotron follows that formula with a selection of pistols, automatic guns, shotguns, grenades, and even some melee weapons.
You can move, jump and shoot in any angle you wish. The jumping and maneuverability in this game feel a bit stiffer than others in the genre. It’s the kind of jumping that doesn’t allow too much movement while in air, which makes platforming a bit harder.
The lack of overall maneuverability clearly makes weapon precision more important. It’s why I recommend playing this game with a mouse and keyboard instead of a controller.
Levels are laid out in a linear fashion. Go from point A to B and enter a new area while killing creatures along the way. You jump on the occasional platforms; hit switches; find keys to unlock doors; that sort of stuff.
There is less focus on exploration than on survival. Resources like healing supplies are limited, and ammo did get scarce when I wasn’t being accurate with my weapons. Since levels were linear, there were instances where the game felt too repetitive. I kind of felt like I was doing the same thing in every area.
Traps and Treasures
The game tries to mitigate linearity and familiarity in a couple of clever ways. For one, weapons and armor pieces are different. For example, chests often drop guns that have a number of different states. I also had an enemy drop a legendary tier mask with a number of useful stat bonuses.
Thankfully, almost every item drop was useful, because even if the stat bonuses weren’t great, I could sell them straight from my inventory. Items and weapons sold gave me currency I could use at ammo or weapons purchasing stations. So whether item drops were useful or not, new drops helped create some excitement every time I picked one up.
Another way the game tries to make its core mechanics exciting is the addition of environmental hazards scattered throughout each area of the game. This play a big role in adding some strategy to enemy encounters.
For example, I could waste upwards of five shots with my pistol to kill an enemy, or I could shoot down a wooden plank overhead to make it fall on enemies. I could shoot a lamp’s wire to electrocute the enemy below.
The developer designed every area with many hazards, and it’s clear that you have to use them to your advantage. I feel like with the environmental hazards and ammo scarcity, the game forces you to be precise and smart when you fire your weapons. If you’re not, Zombotron is going to be a lot more challenging.
Use Your Braaaiiins
As a result of all that I mentioned above, the game can get pretty difficult in a number of places. Boss fights can be challenging if ill-prepared. Enemies can be relentless since the majority of them like to run at you to attack. Checkpoints need to be found within areas and activated manually.
The main way Zombotron makes an effort to alleviate the difficulty is by incorporating a basic level-up system – you can upgrade vitality, strength or dexterity – but I felt like these weren’t enough.
I wish the game had incorporated more defensive mechanics; items that increase durability, the ability to block with melee weapons, or some kind of evasive dodge roll. I found myself frustrated at times because of a lack of these options.
From an aesthetic standpoint, I did like how detailed the game was. Textures are nicely created with the right amount of wear and tear to help sell environments. Lights illuminate shadowy corridors to add to the game’s grim tone. Environmental hazards explode objects into a number of pieces. The alien, otherworldly plant life flows as if being affected by wind.
The only downside is that I felt most environments looked the same, utilizing a drab color palette. However, overall the game looks great and does wonders to set up a particular atmosphere, even though I wish there was more dissimilarity.
As much as I applauded how the game looks, its sound is also a high mark. Sounds for weapons and intractable environmental objects have a believable, crisp and punchy quality to them. Ambient music is rich with echoing, low unnerving electronic tones that one would find in games like Dead Space.
Its ambient music alone is the backbone of the game’s bleak world. And there are a handful of tracks with nice variation, lovingly composed to help mix things up. When entering combat, the game seamlessly transitions into an intense, blood-pumping track that adds to the low unnerving buzz with bellowing war drums.
Zombotron is a fun game for fans of the genre. Overall, I felt the game could have benefited from more core mechanics and diverse environments to help alleviate repetition. Regardless, I think there are enough elements here to shape a good 2D action game that I’d recommend.
Zombotron is available via Steam.
Check out the official trailer for Zombotron below: