Posted: November 27, 2013
Okay, Captain Obvious time - This game involves zombies, the smashing and atomising thereof. The title is as literal as it comes, perhaps second only to NZA 2 (read my review on -that- for more details) in terms of "It does what it says on the tin". Atom Zombie smasher is a variant on those old-school top down "Zombie outbreak simulator" programs that would show lots of little dots rushing around, some were coloured as civilians, and others as zombies, over time you'd watch the infection spread throughout the city, often leaving a small clump of survivors holed up in a dead end praying to survive just another few moments.
This is the logical conclusion of that program, it's a game and a campaign structured around the outbreak simulator program, with you tasked as the last remaining commander of the available defence forces, attempting to save as many lives (and smash as many zombies) as you can. To this end you're provided with a default escape helicopter, and gradually introduced to the toolbox of mercenaries that accompany you over the course of the campaign.
The game runs two distinct "beats", the first is the strategic map, a somewhat procedurally generated vision of a large city with lots of sub districts. This map operates on something of a turn based mode, so at the beginning of a given month, the zombie AI places outbreak counters on various districts, you then select a district to fight in, and depending on the outcome the district is either still infested, cleared out, or reclaimed and made safe for humanity. So far so normal, it's important to note however that whilst you only get ONE district to fight each month, the outbreak AI gets two, and eventually three counters to use, you're fighting a losing battle overall.
However, on the upside, you -do- get some tools at various points, in the strategic map the two major events are access to a prototype cannon (Elephantbird) that allows you to utterly eradicate a district in the tactical mode (more on this shortly), and llama bombs, which essentially decontaminate a bunch of districts in one pass, buying you much needed breathing room. Outside of this, you'll be assigned a squad of mercenaries (randomly selected from the available pool), and you'll get to choose a district to "go tactical" on.
This is where the outbreak simulator program is most visible, in the tactical mode you're presented with a moderately simple top down view, with civilians represented in a sortof beige yellow, zeds in purple, and your forces taking up various other colours. Left unchecked, the map will play out much like the software in question, and eventually all the survivors will be gobbled up, but you've tools to prevent this!
Before the tactical map kicks off, you designate your initial landing point for your rescue chopper (equipped with foghorn that automatically attracts nearby civilians), and you set up your various mercenaries. These range from single shot items like minefields, to ongoing and mobile defences such as infantry and snipers. Effective use and the setting up of choke-points can, if done right, result in you demolishing all the zombies before nightfall and scoring a hefty bonus (indeed, these bonuses, and saving lots of survivors is your path to victory).
The game really livens up once you've got explosives, with the map turning from an often pristine cityscape into a big brown muddy pit. Zombies exploding in clouds of green as your artillery rains down, remote dynamite detonations at key junctions reducing swarms of zombies into kibble, and your infantry protecting choke points and keeping the zeds away from the ever dwindling number of survivors. Once there are no more survivors to rescue, the scores are tallied up and you're returned to the strategic map. Learning how to adapt your tactics to an ever growing outbreak, and racing to the victory of humanity before the zeds inevitably take over forms the core of the campaign.
For a simple pick up and play title, it offers an excellent level of depth, combined with an offbeat and catchy soundtrack. The graphics are not much to look at, but they do the job functionally well (think of a 3D version of that outbreak simulator and you're pretty much there). It's very easy on the system requirements and provided you don't suffer any hiccups at launch, you'll have little complaint from the game. As a cheap impulse buy, it's hard to find fault and as such, comes very much recommended.