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Zafehouse 1.5: DIY Under Extreme Conditions

Logan Booker of Kotaku Australia isn’t just a pretty face (I’m presuming he’s a pretty face, as most games journalists are hotties. No, really). He’s made a game in one (count it!) week, and has lobbed up a second version. Zafehouse is – to quote Sean Garland quoting the RPS chatroom – “like dead rising, but with next-gen graphics”. This is an example of irony. Or perhaps sarcasm, which is the poor man’s irony, and nearly as good.

In short: Zombie-survival management game and a cute distraction. In less short, beneath the cut.

Like most of the recent PC-freeware zombie games, it’s looking more at the zombie-survivalist angle rather than the swell-explored Resident Evil-esque part. That is, it’s a game about gathering supplies (while avoiding being eaten by zombies) to spend on killing zombies. In other words, it’s about deciding what you want to spend your resources on. You have – say – ten people. In an hour by hour basis, you have to decide what you want them to do. Either send them on patrol or – er – don’t, leaving them to defend any of the buildings you’ve secured. In other words, you work out a risk/reward situation – what are the chances of a building being attacked in any given hour? When one of the buildings falls, is it worth actually trying to reclaim it to recapture its bonuses (most buildings dribble out a small amount of a given resource every turn, meaning that it’s your only definite source of more ammunition, say)? And is that guy who’s feverish going to turn into a zombie soon? And can I get enough water before night falls and I can’t go and get some more?

It’s simple, and it’s unlikely you’ll play it too many times – but it does throw hard decisions on you (Each building has a set limit of how many people it can house, leading to the possibility of having more survivors than places to house them). The cycle of daytime scavenging and night-time sieges works well – though I suspect the escalation at the end of the game with more daylight attacks is where most people will trip up first time through by under-estimating incoming waves. My two main reservations are the RPG-esque gaining of bonus traits, as the window that pops up doesn’t tell you where the person is, thus making it hard for you to remember what you were trying to specialise as. Also, you’re only able to send in a number of people to a building’s housing limit to reclear it – which can be as little as three or so. In the end-game, when there can be a couple of zombies inside a building, the inability to send in a proper army to kick those fuckers out is a little grating.

But within its limited aims, it generally succeeds admirably. And if larger developers aren’t looking at these wave of indie games on the topic and thinking that perhaps they could make something a little more definitive and rake it in, they’re being terribly unimaginative. That goes for the indie people too. What about Zombie Kudos, Cliffski, eh? Winner!

Play Zafehouse here.

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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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