We’re big fans of the Zed word. From Dawn of the Dead to Shaun of the Dead, from 28 Weeks Later, to Left 4 Dead, to the Zombie-themed playlists on Halo 3, we love it all. Zombies are always fun, and seeing what twists each new variation brings to the old formula is pretty interesting. Until we played Zombie Mansion, that is. We come not to praise Zombie Mansion, but to bury it.
The game’s plot is simple. You’re in a big house filled with monsters (not zombies, but we’ll get to that), and you have to escape through the top floor. In order to do so, you must walk around and find keys to unlock doors and navigate the large, maze-like house. It’s a very basic first-person shooter–think Wolfenstein before you think Call of Duty. To the left there is a directional control pad, above it a pair of strafe buttons, and on the right there is a jump button and a shoot button. There’s also a percentage indicator to measure how much of the game you’ve completed, a stopwatch timer, and a health meter. Flicking the directional controls works much better than pressing it; it’s counterintuitive at first, but we got used to it and ended up liking it. The strafing buttons immediately above also work, but we hardly ever used them.
Once you familiarize yourself with the controls and start moving around the mansion, you’ll be attacked by… well, certainly not zombies. We’re not entirely sure what in the holy hell is going on here. At various points a knight (in full Monty Python-style getup), a mummy, and a skull with various robotic parts came up and attacked us, just to name a few of the less confusing bad guys. We retaliated with… again, we’re not sure what the game has in mind. Your (only) weapon is a maroon colored, crooked stick that could be a wizard’s staff or a lightning rod. In either case, it fires blue orbs that kill your foes. However, the weapon isn’t centered, so you fire a little to your right. It is enormously annoying.
When enemies take damage, they fall to their knees and then keel over. There’s no damage indication on the screen or in the character model, so you just fire your unlimited ammo until they tumble over. It’s almost as exciting as it reads, believe us. Also, the enemies kill you STUPENDOUSLY fast, regardless of difficulty level, with nary a radar screen nor a sound effect to let you know that they’re busy eating you; there’s just a slight vibration (we didn’t even notice that most of the time) and then your health is gone. Oh, and have we mentioned how there’s no extra lives? You have one go at the mansion, and if you die, it’s over. There’s no saved game or continue option. You’re just dead. And since the mansion respawns enemies you’ve cleared out, retracing your steps to find the key to the top floor means you have to constantly pirouette to make sure new enemies aren’t creeping up on you. It’s a poor, poor game experience.
Zombie Mansion’s graphics are best described as subpar. The game charitably refers to itself as 3D, but we’ll take issue with that. Calling this game 3D is like calling a glass cup a window–they’re similar, but not the same thing. The character models look average, but they’re jerky and poorly animated in-game. That’s why the screenshots look much better than the game actually plays. And the environment isn’t any better. Lava puddles look like scabs, the doors look like caskets, the backgrounds are drab and unimaginative… we don’t want to belabor the point, but the game is just depressing to our ocular cavities to play. Our favorite graphic is the load screen, which caused us to think for a moment that we were getting an original, fresh design. How wrong we were. Meanwhile, the music and sound effects are best turned all the way down. The music is F-list movie score quality, and the sound effects are just terrible; firing your weapon sounds like the Death Star activating.
Zombie Mansion is a rotten, half-finished mess of a game. It may boot up fast and run smoothly, but everything else–from the graphics, to the gameplay, to the oddly out-of-place font used in the menu screens–is an abject failure. If Zombie Mansion were a movie, we would have walked out before halftime. Steer clear, fellow gamers. Steer clear.