Zombies, perhaps appropriately, sometimes feel like they’re bloody (pun intended) everywhere. There was a time when this wasn’t the case at all; the 80s and 90s, for example, saw very little in the way of zombie fiction, but there came a point in the early 00s where they just exploded in popularity, thanks in no small part to smash hit, now-long running Image comic The Walking Dead (which you’ve no doubt heard of, given that the TV adaptation remains hugely popular) and movies such as 28 Days Later (though the infected aren’t really zombies) and the Zack Snyder-directed, James Gunn-penned Dawn of the Dead remake. Even the master of horror, George A. Romero, the late godfather of the modern zombie film – thanks to his incomparable Dead trilogy (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead) – got his time back in the spotlight with his rotting creations, albeit with increasingly diminishing returns; though never reaching the dizzying heights of his aforementioned trilogy, 2005’s Land of the Dead (Romero’s first zombie movie since 1985’s brilliant Day of the Dead) does feature plenty of Romero’s trademark social commentary alongside the horror and gore.
Prior to this pop culture ubiquity – and not helped by the uber-gory zombie movies that were pumped out by Italian filmmakers in the 70s and 80s – there was perhaps the thought that zombies were perhaps a bit too extreme for the mainstream.
Gaming still saw a fair share of shambling undead creatures of course, thanks mostly to Resident Evil, which definitely had a further hand, prior to the cinematic and comic examples given above, in popularising zombies as widespread, well-known antagonists.
However, in the wrong hands, they became spectacularly tasteless and, dare I say it, pointless. Particularly with low budget zombie horror movies, there was little beneath the surface of grubby, lo-fi gore – which was, admittedly, somewhat inventively and memorably deployed in many cases.
It’s this sort of approach that OMG Zombies takes, which perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise given the B-Movie schlock of the title alone. Following a tasteless and awkwardly drawn comic book style intro, players are cast as a lone sniper, taking out hordes of zombies with just a few bullets available on each stage. For reasons that aren’t clear, when players hit a zombie, should they be close enough to another zombie it’ll lead to them both exploding in a shower of gore, with the aim being to cause massive chains of bursting undead and clear each area of Redfield City (nice Resident Evil reference there) of as many reanimated corpses as possible.
That’s it, really; levels are one screen affairs, with your cursor – also able to zoom in, for a bit more precision and detail, with a sniper scope – controlled either via touchscreen or Joy-Con stick. There are different types of zombies, with varying levels of health – some will cause a further reaction than just their explosion of gore when hit; cop zombies let off a bullet when dying and electrically charged zombies set off a further charge and melt into a corrosive puddle, for example. Medals are earned for higher percentages of zombies cleared and funds awarded to be spent on upgrading zombie types (of which there are 8) and ammo count, amongst other things. There’s plenty to collect and 100 branching levels to get through.
Though a simple game, due in part to the unusual concept – but also because of the dreadful way that the game’s mechanics are explained at the beginning – it does take a few tries to truly get your head around what’s going on. The aforementioned explanation of the mechanics really is awful – a massive wall of text, with a terrible choice of font and colour making it even harder to digest. Zombie types are also introduced en masse in this way, where – to me – it’d make sense to explain each one as you enter a level that contains a type of zombie that you haven’t previously encountered.
The overall look of the game is very striking, however. Almost everything, intro comic included, is black and white – with the general exception of blood, which is everywhere. Dark crimson splashes of blood and gore permeate every corner of the game, with appropriately squishy and crunchy sound effects as accompaniment. Zombies can be highlighted in order to easily identify their type, which adds further, sparse colouring to the game.
Despite being difficult to get into, once you’ve got a handle on how to do well it’s impossible to deny the lure of the game. The simple shot-combo-shot gameplay is addictive and you’ll go back to levels once you’ve improved your chances at success with the various upgrades available, in an attempt to better your score and get further cash and medals to progress. There’s also a definite, almost physical-feeling pinball-esque satisfaction to watching zombies explode and involuntarily released bullets pinging around the play area.
Another selling point is the low cost of entry; for the price, there’s a lot of fun to be had here.
Though difficult to recommend without reservation due to a few glaring issues – mostly with the tutorial text, which could definitely use some tidying up – OMG Zombies is nonetheless a decent, original shooting game which gives an unusual take on dealing with a zombie outbreak. Sitting back and watching tens of zombies explode in showers of dark red viscera after letting just a single shot loose is surprisingly addictive; though there’s no immediate hook to draw you in with the uninteresting and faux-edgy (to the point of parody) story, the gameplay in this instance really does speak for itself. There’s nothing else like this out there and it’s certainly a unique proposition on the Switch – if nothing else, it demonstrates how far we’ve come with Nintendo and the kind of content they’ll allow on their console, which can only be good news for everyone.