Zombie Tycoon is a real-time strategy game developed and published by Firma studios for the PlayStation 3 and Vita. It is the successor to a PSP mini game released back in 2009. A humorous situation and a bundle of strategy await the player, leading a horde of zombie squads against foes.
Orville Tycoon, bent on proving that the only size that matters is that of one’s brain, sets out to work. He unleashes a “Formula-Z” virus on the unsuspecting citizens of FinkleVille. Orville has a technique of his own, one of two found in this game. He chooses slow-masses of shambling zombies to overrun his opponent. His mentor, one Professor Brainhov, employs a different strategy. He leads an army of frantic, agile zombies. The types of units available to the Professor are different to Orville and will allow the player to pick a play style to his/her choosing.
The sole objective of the game is to complete objectives presented per each level. The first level presents the player with a tutorial, teaching how to control your map and your zombie army, which is very important. When I say very important to map control, it is due to the awkward feeling, at first, of this control scheme. Left shoulder button serves as a quick zoom out into a world map that allows you to quickly jump between squads that are, maybe, fighting two fronts or are lost somewhere. Left stick is used to control the map horizontally and vertical, while the right stick serves as rotate and zoom/out.
Thematically, the game is very well done. It sports a great soundtrack with ambient music building up to each battle. The player will embark on a journey of rebuilding and regrouping himself. The story is designed to play-out between different missions and locations, revealing the different perspectives for both protagonists. Both will face challenges from the first mission, starting from a great army and quickly losing it. This also reminds of Warcraft 3 style campaign missions. I believe this is the core essence of the experience. Recruit units on the run and spawn them when possible.
Squad control is reminiscent of Company of Heroes. Squads are assigned to the X, Square, and Circle button. Different squads have different abilities and are of a different nature. Squads may have a full number of zombies or may only contain one unit, which isn’t very effective.
Each episode contains a list of objectives that the player must complete to finish the level. Be careful – a lot of hidden challenges are available and I found myself missing a ton of hidden trophies and cool rewards. For instance, in level two, the player has to hack a Broadcast building with the Orville’s Mobile Spawner but will be hunted by a nasty Badgerker (berserker badger) while not on low ground and has the ability to almost-instantly wipe out the player. A timer starts whenever you get down from the high ground and two minutes start ticking away before the attack.
Later on in the game, challenges get harder with enemies varying more and sudden death type of traps being present. Most objectives have trigger points that reveal information related to the next encounters or to hidden side-missions. Zombie control is quite easy, due to a mouse-like driven camera control. It feels very active and accurate and allows for real-time decision making. You may have 3 squads at all times plus your main hero, Orville or the Professor. Each squad may have a specialization that is required for completing objectives. For example, you may train your zombies to be engineers to activate certain doors or blocked paths – but be warned, zombies are not the best with engineering tools.
Mechanically, the game is very responsive overall and boosts good performance. The Unreal Engine 3 is indeed an engine fitted for any platform, performance-wise. Frame rate is constant and it runs very smooth. One feature I felt is missing is touch-screen controls. The urge to swipe and scroll is immense, especially on a machine with two touch-screens. Also, prolonged sessions of keeping the console in idle while the game is running may result to some corrupt screens, but it snaps right back when you resume control.
The level of detail is good, overall, sporting a cartoon style look that fuels the comedy behind the scenes. Animation level is quite high, allowing for some quite amusing and memorable moments that the game throws at the player. Different faction leaders have a different arch story and this means a lot of story-driven content is available.
Multiplayer 1v1 is available via ad-hoc and is also available to those that want to take a PS3 vs. PSVita. The game supports cross-play and is a blast to participate in this type of 1v1, old-school squad based, building capturing type of experience.
Ultimately, if you’re out on the road or at home, itching for a comical type of RTS on your handheld, Zombie Tycoon 2 is a great game to sink time into. Its ideas may remind some of past titles (Relic’s CoH or Warhammer: Dawn of War comes to mind) and amusing anecdotes and storytelling will surely offer an adventure not to refuse. The double-content for the single-player experience and 1v1 rough matches between both factions offer content for hours of enjoyment.
As a zombie would, it grabs you by the brains.