Playing Favorites: Zombie Estate

I really like Zombie Estate on XBox Live Indie Games. It was the best 80 MS points I ever spent. (A close second is Cursed Loot, formerly called Epic Dungeon).

What Zombie Estate does right:

The theme. Zombies. An estate. You fending them off with guns. It’s just downright fun, and I’m not often a fan of twin stick shooters.

The controls. Not being a huge fan of twin stick shooters, I’m surprised I like Zombie Estate so much. I can only assume the controls are the same as any other twin stick shooter on the xbox so there’s something magical going on.

Options. When it comes to choosing your avatar and purchasing weapons, there are lots of options. Play as a ninja, a dog, a cat, a police man. It really doesn’t matter since it doesn’t affect the way the game plays, but it’s nice to have the choice. Weapons are a different story here as choice does matter. But there are plenty to choose from and there are enough to satisfy most any preference of play style. Further, the menu options are minimal. Basically, start the game and the option to turn music on or off.

Co-Op. I’ve never done it, but there’s an option to play with up to 3 of your friends cooperatively.

What it could do better:

More scenarios. The game offers only one level.

Unlimited mode. There are a finite number of waves. Once you’ve finished them all, the game is over. It would be nice to have the option to continue after the “Congratulations” screen.

Aspects I’d borrow from the game:

I want to remake the game (I started this a long time ago with Space Fight). I’d merge the turn-based play style of Blendo Games’ Flotilla with Zombie Estate. The co-op would be scrapped since I find I play the game solo most of the time anyway. You’d control 3 characters simultaneously (sometimes 4), playing turns in 5 second chunks.

How I’d make my own game:

The difficulty progression in Zombie Estate is pretty good, but it appears to be pre-determined. I’m unsure if the developer defined rules such as: For wave 3 we’ll include 30 medics and 170 generic zombies. Or perhaps there is some randomization going on before the level starts. I think what I’d like to try is having a “difficulty budget” and “average difficulty” for each level/wave. Each enemy would have their own “difficulty price”. So the level would “purchase” enemies with its “difficulty spending money”, with the aim of keeping enough enemies in the level to keep the current difficulty level as close to average as possible.

The “average difficulty” would increase the further into the game you got, having the level throw tougher scenarios at you. It could be that you’re faced with 5 very tough enemies, or perhaps 80 kinda-tough enemies.

Throw in a story line that takes you through different settings, and a friends list that allows you to import a friend’s character into your game (the 4th character in your team), and I think we’d have a pretty good game.

Edit (July 18, 2012)

I’ve managed to recruit a couple other very enthusiastic players to join me in a co-op game. Here are a few additional thoughts since playing co-op with 3 players.

It still takes forever to get through all the waves to the end of the game. Twice we’ve played to wave 25 and twice it got “too late” to continue playing. It has been a long time since I played that far in single player, but it seems to me that in co-op the game multiplies the number of enemies you encounter based on the number of people playing. A start to finish session takes a couple hours. Which brings me to my second point.

It really needs the ability to save! Getting to wave 25 and having to turn off the game really sucks. It’s going to be at least three times we’ll have had to start all over from the beginning just to “beat” the game.

And you really need something to do with your money after wave 20. I had $15000 on my character with nothing to do with it.

That being said, the game is still great. There’s little I would do to “fix” co-op. The addition of a save file, obviously, so we could play in 30-60 minute chunks. Perhaps you could purchase weapon upgrades (rate of fire, damage, etc) so that in the later stages of the game you have a reason to spend money. I’d say “keep the number of enemies the same as when playing single player” but that is dependent on the ability to purchase weapon upgrades.

It was still the best 80 Microsoft point purchase I’ve made on Xbox Live Indie Games, though.

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