With the sheer number of zombie-infested shooter games out there it’s always nice to see a developer do something different. And in the swathes of zombie games that have been washing up on the shores of our stores, Iceberg Interactive and Headup Games came together to give us Trapped Dead.
Set in 1982 this particular incarnation of the living dead feels very reminiscent of the older zombie films. You, Mike, and your college friend Gerald are on a road trip and have run out of gas. Naturally, you’re in the middle of nowhere but within walking distance of a gas station, like any good horror flick! After exploring the station you find your friend acting as a tasty snack for one of the cannibalistic reanimations. Set course for the hospital and boom we have a zombie story, ladies and gentlemen.
While on the topic of the story, quite an interesting touch was the cover art of the case. Instead of all that typical stuff you find like computer specs (which are all on the sleeve it comes in anyway) it tells the story in pictures of how the infestation began. The art style is cool I have to say, and that combined with the introduction cinematic put me in mind of the board game Zombies!!! I’m not saying that over-enthusiastically by the way, there are just that many exclamation marks in the name of the board game.
In Trapped Dead the gas station is your tutorial, and the basics of the controls are easy to learn, rather harder to remember. The game plays out similar to other squad-based RTS games, which caused me to often forget the actual controls (right click & drag to select, left click to move) for my brain’s memory of generic RTS controls (the reverse, which is what’s normal, right?).
Again, like the other squad RTS games out there, each member of your squad has their own inventory and they can each exchange items as long as they’re close enough, or just throw things on the floor and let others pick them up. You can also choose which members of the group go on the missions you need to perform, for the most part anyway, as you encounter more and more survivors throughout the story that each bring their own unique skills into the mix. Another nice point was the option of what order to perform missions in, so for example if you had something you needed to do at the Freight Depot and the Library you can choose to perform one before the other depending on which you feel might be easier or allow you to accrue more weapons and ammunition (which is in scarce supply).
The combat itself is fun, the typical strategy of having some sprint and club zombies in the head to protect your gun-toting heroes killing at range was enjoyable. Although to conserve ammunition sometimes it would just be a group bashing (and put me in mind of Shaun of the Dead with the cricket bat and shovel) and hope not many other zombies notice what’s going on! There’s also a handy pause (read: panic) button if you need extra time to think or check inventories.
One nice element is the stamina bars that determine how much the party members can sprint or use melee attacks. If you’re by a zombie without stamina you’ll need to either delay before you hit him until you have enough back or get the others to help out as you struggle to walk that one member to safety. If someone does get scratched up they stand a chance of bleeding, and that means the walking dead out there get a good smell of their dinner and start crowding towards them. It does help add another dimension to the survival game.
All that said, while the game is genuinely fun it feels trampled on by a few factors. There is a slight delay in commands given and a manageable situation can quickly turn sour. When moving multiple people the odd pathfinding reveals that the characters have some kind of unrelenting desire to form a conga line, so much so that they will move in the opposite direction of where you’ve sent them to go just so they can follow the leader, which can often send them walking towards the hungry undead instead of away. And once they’re at the spot you ordered them to they will all circle the one member who made it there first. These issues can be bypassed by ordering each person to a location individually but it doesn’t seem like an ideal design.
You might say these are minor complaints, and you could be right. But just how the little things can make something great they can also bring down the experience. The above points coupled with the counter-intuitive controls, that still catch me off-guard every so often, did hinder my experience.
Even so, the game is honestly entertaining. The story is decent, the locations are varied, the zombies are old-school. I approve of all these things. It could even have been a personal favourite were it not for those points of annoyance that dogged me at each turn. My hat still goes off to the companies involved in making the game for at least doing something a bit different, and my fingers crossed that they can improve on the current version.