Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge is a zombie real-time-strategy game from Frima Games, and the sequel to Zombie Tycoon, released in 2009 for the PSP. This installment is available for the PS3 and PS Vita, and features cross-platform play for its online multiplayer as well as the ability to transfer your progress between platforms.
The main story involves two zombie leaders: Professor Tycoon, and Dr. Brainhov. They both control armies of zombies and they both hate each other. You’ll see fights play out between the two groups, but you’ll also be able to play each faction in different situations, standing tall against enemies that stand in their way. You won’t find out much about the characters in the way of dialogue: everyone speaks with sound effects and grunts, so the game relies on animation and humor to represent the characters. It works well enough; the cutscenes are well animated, the characters feel alive and act in humorous ways.
Gameplay is relatively simple. The face buttons control your squad: triangle for your leader’s “mobile spawner”, X for your available creature once you unlock the ability to control creatures, and square and circle to control your two zombie groups. For each level, you are given at least one objective you must complete to advance, and several optional objectives. This usually involves destroying a large structure, or defeating a creature(s). To survive the level, your team must claim territory by attacking buildings all over the map. Small buildings will give you more zombies to add to your army; larger buildings allow you the opportunity to upgrade your zombies into one of several zombie classes. Samurai zombies move the quickest, and have powerful attacks. Engineer zombies can operate construction machinery, which allows them to open up doors and new paths to take. Computer “cleaners” can suck up toxic waste, enabling the rest of the squad to cross through safely. Scout zombies can hide underground, and sneak up on enemies.
Creatures are also valuable to your success. Each creature has four different abilities, corresponding to the four directions on the D-Pad. As enemies are defeated, yellow experience orbs will appear for the creature to pick up, and as more orbs are collected, more abilities will be unlocked. The Zombie Rush command is handy in sticky situations where your squad is outnumbered. The Rush meter on the upper right corner of the screen shows how many zombie groups you control from the buildings your team claimed. Pressing the R button on Vita (R1 on PS3) sends a huge group of zombies to assist you in fighting enemies, claiming buildings, or any other tasks you need to accomplish. Tapping the L1 button on PS3 (L on Vita) activates a top-down map of the entire area in a level, except your squad will still need to move into certain regions to reveal everything. The left stick controls the camera, and the right stick rotates the camera.
The zombie squad must protect the leader’s mobile spawner, or the game is over, and you restart from the last checkpoint. The spawner can, true to its name, spawn zombies if the groups are losing members. If the spawner is sitting still, it can shoot at enemies with its machine gun. Unfortunately, the spawner is slow, and any damage dealt by enemies is permanent. Unlike creatures that can regenerate their health, the spawner cannot regain its health, so it must be protected at all times. If you reach a checkpoint with a low amount of health, you’re stuck at that amount even after you die. This gave me plenty of frustration in troublesome areas.
While I’m on the topic of frustration, let me speak about other problems I had with the game (PS: I found plenty!). I ran into several glitches during the game. When I went into the game’s “codex” for information that popped up about a certain zombie class, my PS3 froze. In one story mission, I had to sneak Dr. Brainhov past dozens of “redneck” guards. One guard was standing still over a certain area that I had to go through in order to proceed. He was stuck in one spot, but his feet appeared to be moving in place. What’s worse was when I moved into his area and moved out, he went after me for about 2 or 3 seconds, and then returned to his spot. After that, I returned to his area, and walked past him in plain sight, completely unnoticed by him. I found this character’s behavior very strange, and feel like this moment should have been caught in testing, and not be triggered in the final game.
Another glitch that I witnessed several times was after I died, and one of my creatures or squad groups was unable to move from a certain area. So, I either tried to go on without that creature/group, or restarted the level from scratch. Again, I don’t think this should have happened in the final version of the game. Checkpoints are only reached after you get to a certain area or complete a certain objective. There is a low amount of checkpoints spaced out unevenly, so in large maps, if you die, you may have to replay several minutes to get back to where you were. The zombie squad runs very slow overall; some zombies and creatures are faster than others, but moving squads across great distances can be a pain. Music and the level environments can feel tedious and repetitive.
Online multiplayer seems like it would be fun, one player’s squad versus another person’s squad, but it gets boring and dull quickly. On the mini map, you can’t see the other player’s squad unless you are very close to it. There are leaderboards, but you can’t see your win/loss ratio until you play ten online games. I don’t see the reason behind this decision, other than to make the player spend more time online.
In conclusion, this game seems to be a big step up from the first installment, but it could’ve been so much more. Cross-save and cross-platform play works well, and cutscenes in the story mode look great, but the game can feel boring and stale after a while. More voice acting could have made the story more engaging, and the camera doesn’t always spot enemies heading towards you. Some spots can be ridiculously difficult and be overrun with enemies, leaving you with few options to survive. There are only 8 levels, but you can go back and complete the extra objectives to obtain all the trophies. At $10, I would say it’s a good price, but after experiencing such bad glitches, I think it may be too expensive. For Plus subscribers, the game is free until May 28, so I’d suggest getting it while it’s still free.