Zombie Panic in Wonderland is a shoot-‘em-up that takes elements from traditional fairytales and spices them up with a very particular manga-style narrative. The game is set in a series of diverse and destructible scenarios filled with enemies that are infected with a plague. The whole package overflows with humor, entertainment, and action. For older gamers, this title may somewhat remind them of an old eighties classic, Cabal, which was one of the pioneers of the genre.
The fairytales that inspire this game are: Momotaro, a Japanese tale that narrates the story of a boy born from a peach; Snow White and the Seven Dwarves; and a very particular take on the Wizard of Oz. From these tales the game selects 7 playable characters, including 2 versions of Momotaro, and very sexy iterations of Snow White & Dorothy as starting characters. As the player advances through the game new characters become available, but these are strictly new visual avatars; they don’t add any new weapons or variations in play style, nor do they affect the way the story develops.
The game is controlled via the Nunchuck and Wiimote. With the Wiimote the player aims at the enemies and fires his/her weapon. The Nunchuck moves the character and changes the weapon. It’s really a very simplistic and unproblematic control scheme. The playable character can only move left or right, and front or back, as he tries to avoid the charges of the three-dimensional enemies that never stop pouring. There’s no exploration or anything of that sort, just unending action thanks to the endless flow of opponents rising from the ground. The objective is simply to clean a sector of enemies before the time runs out (the usual time limit rarely exceeds five minutes). Each level has two areas to rid of enemies and a final boss that is much more challenging.
The machine gun is the standard weapon. With infinite ammo, this will be your primary weapon for bringing down most of the enemies. There are two weapons that are more powerful than the machine gun, but they both have limited ammo. The first of these weapons is the flamethrower, which is ideal for dispatching the smaller and more agile enemies. The other weapon is an anti-tank gun, which is more effective, but also very difficult to replenish due to the scarcity of its ammo. There are also a few hand grenades that can be found along the way. The only way to find ammo and grenades is to simply trash and destroy everything on site in a scenario.
Zombie Panic in Wonderland has a large variety of foe types, going from the basic heart-crunching zombies to a zombie Santa Claus. Other foes include knights in armor, archers, crows, yetis, and skeletons. Each of these opponents has a weak spot, and once found it is much easier to mow them down and boost your score. The villains can come at you by either flinging objects from a distance, or by approaching for an up-close physical assault. The game has four automatic revives per game, however there are infinite continues available, so this figure doesn’t really matter much.
Zombie Panic also allows a second player to enter or leave an ongoing game at any moment. And, aside from the story mode, Zombie Panic also has an Arcade mode where you can use all of the unlocked characters to replay the completed levels just for the sake of increasing your score. You're also able to select from different difficulty levels.
There are a few flaws that keep it from being the perfect package, however. The most obvious is the duration; it’s far too short even for a downloadable game. It’s so brief that it can be completed in just one hour. Another weakness is that the gameplay is somewhat repetitive and centered on simply shooting and dodging. A few alternative paths to traverse the levels, or more differentiated weapons and playable characters, would have gone a long way to addressing this problem. Then there is the lack of online play; simply a must in this sort of game.
The graphic design is excellent and easily stands alongside the best seen on WiiWare. Zombie Panic gambles in favor of a very artistic manga style, coupled with a mature take on the various characters. The playable characters enjoy an awesome visual design. The special effects of the game, such as explosions, are also very well represented. A special mention must be made of the scenarios, which are almost totally destructible. The game runs smoothly on both widescreen and standard TVs and has no slowdown, even at moments when the whole screen appears to explode in action. The developers decided to gamble in favor of only a handful of very good musical pieces. These songs are very catchy and always appropriate with the situation in the game. The lackluster element in this department is the voice acting; the enemies only emit a few limited grunts (usually either when attacking or when taken down), and these are recycled constantly.
Zombie Panic in Wonderland is a shoot-‘em-up with an enjoyable storyline and a hilarious sense of humor. It also displays fairly commendable artistic and technical refinements given the constraints of its target market. Its worst weaknesses are the briefness of its story mode and the lack of online options. Nevertheless, it is an exemplary product: well rounded, with high quality elements, and fun. Technically speaking, it is one of the best action & shoot-‘em up products available on WiiWare. If you happen to have a friend to share the challenge with and 1,000 spare Wii-points lying around, then don’t hesitate to get it.