Zombies, Aliens And Guns

Explosive competence.

Written by Jason Venter
Published Apr. 25, 2024

Zombies, Aliens And Guns is a twin-stick shooter that delivers exactly what it says on the can. No more. No less. There’s not really a story, because you don’t need one. There aren’t a lot of modes and there isn’t much depth on display because those things are extraneous. But are they, really?

The game begins by introducing you to a couple of key concepts: moving and following a compass indicator, which directs you through the available stages. You also get a gun, which has unlimited ammo of various types, but can only fire short bursts before needing to recharge. If that process takes too long, you might wind up in a tough spot, what with zombies and aliens swarming you.

Throughout the various stages, you find a few points of interest. Sometimes, these are health or ammo drops, which you should save for an emergency. Other times, they are hostages—who you can lead to safety—or supplies to help your military friends repel the alien invaders. Some stages merely ask you to reach their end, while others want you to play tourist along the way.

The limited ammo had real potential to make things interesting, and sometimes it does. Most of the deaths my character experienced were the result of an empty chamber at just the wrong moment. But it’s not much fun to fire a quick burst, wait a second or two, then fire another quick burst and repeat that process time after time. A better approach, I learned eventually, is to run around like a chicken with its head cut off. As you do that, enemies form into convenient swarms. Then you can eliminate a bunch of them all at once to give yourself some breathing room.

Once you learn that technique, you can pair it with circular movements. Even bosses don’t know what to do if you run big circles around them while mobs trail you like squirming exhaust. There’s also a dash move, which you can use a few times in a level, and which may get you out of some tough spots.

Enemy variety is pretty weak. There are zombies and aliens, of course, but not a lot of varieties of either monster. The game makes the limited variety work by not being super long. You should get through everything in fewer than three hours, even if you die rather a lot. A few bosses do liven up proceedings, but I found those encounters more annoying than exhilarating. You’ll also encounter several unique environments, including some urban streets at night that I thought were handled pretty well, but a lot of the other settings feel interchangeable.

Screenshot: Gameroni

If you should happen to fall in battle within a stage, you go right back to the start of the level to try again. However, the various environments tend not to be especially big. You can also explore most of them a little at a time, taking out a swath of foes and then giving yourself time to slowly recover life and ammo. There are a few vehicle stages, including a ride on a boat and another where you take out a supply chain, but mostly you’re just running and blasting and dodging the whole way through the adventure.

Besides the campaign, there are survival and boss rush modes, but I didn’t find the gameplay loop additive enough to make me care about seeing how long I could last for more than a time or two. There also trophies (at least on the PS5 version I played), generously distributed at the end of nearly every main stage. By the end of the campaign, I had earned all of them without making any special effort to accomplish that goal. At least I can finally say I have a platinum trophy.

Visually and aurally, the game gets the job done. There aren’t a lot of cute animations of the sort you might see in an old Metal Slug game, nor is there the grittier take from some Contra games. It’s all just sort of there, competent but not especially memorable. The soundtrack features a limited selection of songs that cycle through on repeat. They prove quite catchy, and perfectly suitable for the game. I’d swear I’ve heard some of them before, but I probably haven’t. They’re just so perfectly suited for the sort of game this is, I’d imagine.

In the end, Zombies, Aliens And Guns does nothing to recommend itself from other retro-style shooters of a similar nature. It’s a solid package that should appeal to people who want to play something new that also happens to feel pretty old, but it’s unlikely to win the genre any converts or linger on your mind a year or two from now.

There's not enough good stuff in Zombies, Aliens And Guns to inspire a recommendation over various other retro shooters you might have played in the past, but it's a competent enough experience to provide more of the same if that's what you're looking for.

Jason Venter
Jason Venter (Managing Editor)

Jason Venter has been writing about games since he discovered the medium as a small child, but people didn't start paying him until around 2002. He began by writing online at HonestGamers, the site he founded, and spent a few years writing for Hardcore Gamer Magazine. Since then, he has freelanced for leading outlets such as IGN, GameSpot, Polygon, and numerous others. When he's not playing and writing about video games, he spends what little time is left writing and publishing fantasy novels.

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