- Satisfying chain-reaction gameplay
- Presentation stepped up from OMG-Z
- Plenty of levels and upgrades available
- ZIT Grenades feel a bit cheap
- The randomly generated layouts can sometimes stump you by no fault of your own
OMG-Z originally launched as a PSP mini, and despite being developed by a small team at Laughing Jackal, it still sits in the top 10 PSP games of all time on Metacritic. So with the game now reborn on Vita in the form of OMG HD Zombies, you’d be expecting the same quality to shine through amongst the exploding undead folk. And that’s in a sense true, but apart from looking a bit nicer there isn’t much to separate it from the original as far as the madcap gameplay goes.
At its core, despite shooting zombies being the basis of the action, the game is a puzzler. In each of the hundred levels on offer you’re given just three bullets to tear through ridiculous numbers of brain-munching adversaries, it’s not uncommon to see upwards of a hundred on screen at any one time. While this sounds an impossible feat, upon death the zombies produce some kind of unique reaction. Initially they explode, causing devastation around them and chain reactions as others fall who are caught within the blast zone. It’s not long before you’re introduced to more types, such as electric-shooting, head-popping and even gun-toting zombies.
The art of the game is to wipe out as many as humanly possible, doing so in massive chains. Your success isn’t decided in the steadiness of your hand, but the zombie you pick to start the chain, the timing of your shot and a great, big, whopping, slice of luck. Before shooting you need to gauge the health of the target you’re aiming at, only the ones with a slither of health are worth shooting at to avoid wasting precious shots. Thankfully you’re only a button away from toggling the display, while there’s also a handy colour indicator that colour codes zombie types. Strike it lucky and you’ll kick start chain reactions that swarm throughout the street, masses of crimson splattered all over the shop, heads popping into the sky and bombing down on helpless targets, pistol shots fired right, left and centre as your score tallies ever higher. Make a bad decision however, and you’ll see an undead chap explode on his lonesome and your clip a vital bullet down. It’s the finest of margins that dictate success.
What’s more, the layout of a level is never the same twice. Zombie’s starting points are randomly generated, and they never move in consistent patterns either. It’s this that’s both the main strength and weakness of the game. While it makes it all the sweeter when you nail a massive combo, there are times when it looks physically impossible to clear the stage. There are sometimes massive gaps between several groups, making a chain reaction literally impossible by no mistake of your own. The restart button coupled with a nice fast loading time mean that a restart takes mere seconds, but it’s still a little bit annoying.
As with any Vita reimagining, touch screen controls are in. Being a purist I was always going to switch back to the standard controls, but I gave the touch controls a little test before doing so. For the most part they work well, the interface is nice and clean and you can toggle between zombie displays with just a few presses. The only problem with this method is that the targets are a little too small to shoot with any great accuracy, which becomes all too evident in crowded areas where you unwittingly blast the wrong zombie.
Other extras include a fleshed-out story with scrollable comic book-style windows, leaderboards that should give high-score chasers a run for their money, and a Prestige mode should you do the seemingly impossible and get a Platinum medal on every single level. In fact, there’s one Trophy that asks players to Prestige 20 times, which is one of the most time-consuming trinkets I’ve seen in any game for a long, long time. Other than that, it’s worth pointing out that the stylised black and white visuals look a lot sharper on the new small screen, and the presentation has definitely been stepped up a notch.
One thing I didn’t like is the in-game purchases. I don’t mind buying the odd piece of DLC that offers something unique, but these all-nuking ZIT Grenades on offer bother me a bit. They clear the level of zombies completely, giving players an instant Platinum medal for their trouble. In fact I did a small calculation, and found that you could theoretically spend £649 just to get to your 20th Prestige. It takes away from the reward of cracking a level using your own skills, when you know others are just doing the same with no effort simply because they have the money there.
If you’ve already bought OMG-Z, then whether or not you download OMG HD Zombies depends on what you want. If you’re after the same brand of strategic zombie ‘sploding with added bells and whistles then you can’t go wrong, but if you’re just after the gameplay then aside from three new zombie types and a handful of new levels then it’s pretty much the same deal. Of course if you’ve not played the game in any form before and you own a Vita, then OMG HD Zombies is pretty much essential. Just don’t go mad on the Grenades, eh?