Age of Zombies for the PlayStation Vita is a dual stick shooter where you blast away at a rabid swarm of the undead across the span of time. Unless you are playing the PlayStation Mini version on the PS3, this is the only version of Age of Zombies that offers true dual stick shooting. You have the option to play with touch screen controls but they feel cold and alien compared to the comfort of the sticks. Age of Zombies takes place across six time periods including ancient Egypt, the Old West, and the future. In each of these locales you will face the threat of a seemingly endless zombie mob, decked out in attire tailored to the time period.
The game provides a large arsenal of weapons at your disposal. The default gun is a single fire pistol with infinite ammunition; alternative arms include a submachine gun, a rifle, a shotgun, and more. Unlike the pistol, these weapons come with a limited number of rounds to balance out their increased fire power. In addition to ballistic weapons, you start off each level with 5 grenades that are handy for disposing of multiple enemies at once. The grenades and other explosive weapons - including land mines, a bazooka, and dynamite - are mapped to the Vita’s shoulder buttons. Non-offensive items include a shield that temporarily makes you immune from damage, a 1-up, and a hover board that allows you to speedily zoom around the play area. Scouring the area for items somewhat mitigates the tedium of the gameplay, but it does not stop Age of Zombies from feeling like a one note type of game.
Each level is divided into three stages with slightly tweaked layouts. In the 3rd stage of each level you will encounter a boss battle with a giant enemy representative of the time period. This may include an undead samurai in feudal Japan, a zombified T-Rex from the pre-historic era, or a mob boss during the time of American prohibition. You still have to contend with the horde of zombies while dealing with the boss, which provides the main challenge of these confrontations. The bosses attack with a greater range and deal more damage as the fight wears on. Usually the best method for dealing with any of the bosses is spamming them with explosives or placing a turret nearby until victory is achieved.
The level design leaves a lot to be desired. You do not traverse the stages from one area with an end goal in mind. Rather, you wander around the enclosed arena-like environments until the last zombie is defeated. The terrain is almost uniformly flat except for large chasms or raised platforms that impede your movement. You essentially end up circling the perimeter of the level incessantly, unless you decide to grab nearby items. The environments all look different, but what is the point if they all play the same way?
Age of Zombies stars Barry Steakfries, who is also the star of Halfbrick's much better game, Jetpack Joyride. Barry is a silent protagonist in Jetpack Joyride and for good reason - he is a complete idiot. Every line of dialogue he spews in Age of Zombies is cringe worthy. I have no doubt in my mind that the game’s low, low brow humor is intentional but that does not make it any less painful to witness. Barry is essentially a composite of every overly macho action hero from the 80s, though his constant one liners all fall flat. On the bright side, the retro-inspired soundtrack is a treat, especially for fans of Sega Genesis era 16 bit music.
The 2D visuals are basic and manage to keep the endless stream of blood and gore looking a tad whimsical. Barry Steakfries looks different from his Jet Pack Joyride character model, and personally I am not a fan of his blocky appearance. I was, however, impressed when the game presented hundreds of zombies chasing after me at once. To be sure Age of Zombies looks noticeably better on the Vita than it does on other platforms, so it has that going for it.
The game costs $4.99 to download from the PlayStation Store, which is the same price it debuted at as a PlayStation Mini nearly four years ago. The PlayStation Mini version is still available for download at that same price, by the way, and is fully compatible with the PS Vita, PSP, and PS3. It is also an increase from the $2.99 price point it sported once it was ported over to the iOS platform. It took me little more than an hour to beat the campaign, including the extra stage unlocked after viewing the end credits. There is a survival mode with a large variety of stages to unlock, but it's pretty straightforward, tasking you with surviving wave after wave of increasingly aggressive zombies until you inevitably perish. Finally, you can view stats for your performance across the entire game, as well as compare yourself with the community via online leaderboards.
Perhaps Age of Zombies felt fun and fresh back in 2010 but here, in 2014, it feels as stale and recycled as its time traveling premise. It is a shame that, after four years, added trophy support is the biggest change made to the game. If it had more in the way of original content or, better yet, was a full on sequel, I would be more inclined to give it some props. If you have managed to avoid playing this game for the past four years there is still no reason to give it a look now.
This review is based on a digital copy of Age of Zombie for the PSV, provided by the publisher.