The streets of London are infested with hordes of mutated zombies, and the only hope of salvation lays on the shoulders of four uniquely heroes. A throwback to the days of arcade cooperative side-scrolling brawlers, Bloody Zombies sees players use their fists, feet, and anything they can salvage to overcome the odds and escape from the undead nightmare. Whether you are using a virtual reality (VR) headset or playing on a television, Bloody Zombies is a bloody brilliant experience.
Bloody Zombies employs a combat system using both standard attacks, as well as energy draining special moves. As the game supports up to four players, either locally, online or any combination between, the game is best played with a group. It is also one of the rare games that supports traditional 2D gaming and those with VR headsets to play together. Playing solo, the levels feel as if they drag on for far too long; as all enemies need to killed to progress through the levels. Doing it alone feels more like a hassle, sucking the joy out of the game. However, adding one or more players brightens the experience exponentially, especially if you add someone using a VR headset into the mix.
Those players have a clear strategic advantage, as the characters on screen literally pop in front of your eyes. It's like looking at a highly detailed shoebox diorama with cardboard cutout characters. While the game is quite sharp looking and stylized on a television, using a VR headset takes the game to a whole other level. When using a VR headset, the game supports PSVR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift; you can see the level in its entirety, giving you the opportunity to warn others about an impending trap of spikes or how much further it is to the boss.
Besides pickups that replenish your health and energy, you’ll come across special move pickups, coins for shops and usable weapons. All of the skills in the game are separated into four unique categories. You can only have a single ability from each of the branches equipped at any given moment, but you can easily and swiftly swap between the skills at any time. Three of the slots are for active abilities, while the fourth serves as a passive skill. The passive skills have their purpose, such as stunning enemies briefly after performing a dodge or gaining an attack bonus by getting a high combo count.
The active skills are tied to different face buttons on the controller, and either using one of the shoulder buttons or by properly inputting the correct directional commands. While the game defaults to the more advanced setup, using directional inputs, I opted for the simplistic approach by holding L1 on the PS4 controller and using the face buttons. From powerful launchers that can knock many mutants into the air, to a piledriving grapple, the skills are quite varied, and you’re able to swap between them depending on your play style. If you find yourself low on energy, as using skills costs energy, you can still beat zombies to a bloody pulp using your fists.
The combat system in Bloody Zombies is easy enough to understand, as you can use basic attacks to string together punches that can send foes flying back or by using kicks that can launch enemies into the air where they can be juggled indefinitely. Jump attacks provide an opening for combo opportunities, but you won’t be able to use the same strategy on every enemy type. Some can counter your attacks using their enlarged limbs, such as overly long appendages that can hit you before you can get close enough to strike, or those that come with defensive spikes on their back, blocking you from making any aerial assaults.
Weapons, such as swords, knives and massive spiked sledgehammers, make easy work of mutants, providing additional support, but will break after a set amount of hits. Rolling is your only defensive skill, and it must be used during boss battles to avoid both direct attacks and area of effect abilities. Considering the numbers are never in your favor, you can opt for a 360-degree maneuver that kills enemies from all sides, at the cost of a bit of your life. It certainly could save your life, as getting pounded by multiple enemies can tell much more damage in a short timespan.
Bloody Zombies is an enjoyable old-school cooperative brawler with modern conveniences. VR players certainly have an advantage, being able to view levels in their entirety, making it easier to find secrets, but most importantly, they can experience the sense of depth the game has to offer. Players can feed off of each other's combos, juggling enemies in the air for hundreds of hits at a time, something that is sorely missing when trying to save London alone.Note: Bloody Zombies was reviewed on PlayStation 4. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.