Pet Zombies for the 3DS is a game twenty-somethings want to like. Speaking, of course, of a shared history that includes Gigapets, Pokemon, and any number of games that let you invest in virtual animals. Twenty-somethings, we popularized this whole “geek” thing, too, so we’re probably pre-disposed to a fascination with zombies. Combine all of those elements into a morbid blend of Nintendogs, Angry Birds, and Shaun of the Dead’s humor, and you have something we can get behind. Unfortunately, Pet Zombies overstays its welcome at every turn. Worse, the game feels rushed. Still, after playing through it, there are definitely parts that I enjoyed.
Let’s start with presentation. Pet Zombies utilizes a cartoon-like art style that doesn’t seem to fit the concept. The UI, character models, and animations all seem a little bit cute. I understand why they’d go that route, since parents are more likely to buy the game for their kids. It stands at an odd contrast to other elements of the game, however. Many of the activities you can do, or do to, your zombie have a more mature sense of humor. Players can freely hold a torch to their zombie, burning them as they scream and yell like Disney characters in pain. I hoped the art style would grow on me but, with the juxtaposition of cutesy design and morbid atmosphere, I walked away still wondering what the developer’s were going for.
The game opens with a stunning use of 3D. And by that, I’m referring to the title screen. The art assets have some serious pop-out and it looks great. That said, the use of 3D in the rest of the game was modest at best. During the “main” portion of the game (we’ll get to why that’s quoted later), your zombie wanders through environments and with toys you unlock along the way. There’s a sense of depth present but the 3D isn’t used to enhance gameplay in any way. That would even be acceptable if the mini-games you spend so much time in utilized it here or there. But alas, throughout, 3D is take-it-or-leave-it at best and oh-look-it’s-not-even-on-and-I-didn’t-notice at worst.
But that’s okay as long as the gameplay is good. This is where the game stumbles worst. In the “main” section, you play with your zombie using toys, such as balls, mirrors, and laser pointers. The zombie cheerily chases them and you earn Nurture or Torture points depending on how mean you are. Unfortunately, how your zombie responds to these toys becomes repetitive quickly and you’ll yearn for the break minigames provide. These games unlock as you play and provide currency — known as Zombucks — for items, environments, and other unlocks. The first, and best, features you launching a zombie from a slingshot to collect coins. You have a magnet ability and another that let’s you keep flying for a limited time; more if you collect power-ups on the way. The problem is that this is the only available game for far too long. This is a problem for every minigame: they’re fun, but you’re forced to play them ad nauseum to continue. If you get tired of those, you have the caretaking portion of the game, the part that became repetitive in the first hour, to keep you going.
You see where the problem is. You’ll spend most of the time playing Pet Zombies as a minigame collection rather than a pet simulator. It all adds up to a really conflicted sense of design.
All that said, I could see kids under the age of 13 having a good time with this game and it deserves points for that. It is ideal for short bursts, such as during lunch or before homework, and for someone who will come back to the game often. The minigames are fun, taken in moderation, and have the same addictive quality frequently found in mobile games. Should you buy it for Christmas morning? Probably not at the current price point. At $15, though, or for a rental, the game offers a unique twist on a classic formula.
- Unique concept
- Good sense of humor
- Good progression path
- Conflicted design
- Repetitive gameplay
- Progression takes too long