There is but one cure for illness and grumpiness: shooting lots of pretend things, over and over again, barely pausing for thought, food or oxygen. Die! Die! Die! You are all metaphors for my problems. Die!
It was in a such a mood that I wandered over to Sigma Team's 2007 game Zombie Shooter, one of those many cheap-sounding games lurking in the Steam store for a few quid. Zombies? Shooting? There's no way to get that totally wrong. Let's risk it.
It is, aheh, one of the most braindead gun-games I've ever had the good fortune to play. The kill count is extraordinary - zombies surging in their hundreds, and the levels' floors quickly coated in extreme gore and viscera, leaving none of the original terrain still visible.
There is almost nothing to it. You shoot zombies, in a remarkably robust 2D engine. The model is Alien Breed, Shadowgrounds et al - top-down, third-person, enclosed spaces. Team Sigma have done a similar thing with a series of Alien Shooter games, but zombies are that much more appealing. As you play, you level up, spending points on stat boosts and cash on new, gloriously destructive weapons. The disc cutter can mow a good half dozen zombie down with one shot, the minigun is a spray of constant death, the rocketlauncher can paint a room red instantly....
There is almost nothing to it. You shoot zombies which become increasingly tough. Some of them are almost unfair - the homing flesh-missiles of the spindly ghoul-things, for instance. But then you explode 40 regular undead into rotting pieces with a single shot from a gun that never needs reloading (though it will eventually run out of ammo), and you're reminded that 'fair' isn't a concept that exists in any aspect of this game.
There is almost nothing to it. Narrative? Pfft. Logic? Good lord, no. Half the enemies aren't even zombies, simply unexplained fleshbeasts with otherworldly powers or an infinite supply of rocketlaunchers. This are simply rooms full of monsters to kill, over and over, in sometimes exhausting waves. Every time a new horde appears, it looks ridiculous, impossible. There's no way you can possibly defeat that. But you do.
There is almost nothing to it. It's almost inexcusable in its simplicity, in its near-plagiarism of isometric shooters - until you realise that, actually, nothing else is doing this. It feels familiar, the instant recognisation of the click-shoot-die feedback loop, but I've a sneaking suspicion that this is as much to do with Team Sigma getting the feel and controls (bar some getting stuck on scenery problems, as a result of the fixed camera and resultant occlusion of parts of the screen) exactly right as it is their borrowing liberally from trusted sources.
There is almost nothing to it. It's so, so stupid, but it's so much fun - simply a shooting game with all the usual restraints and pretence of cleverness removed, leaving only the rich, bloody core of clicking a button to watch hundreds of things die. I can't imagine I'll ever play it again. I can't imagine that matters.
Zombie Shooter: stoopidest thing ever. You'll probably love it.