Ever wonder what happened to Lemmings? It was one of the most popular and widely-known games on the Amiga and yet despite some attempts to keep it going through ill-conceived 3d sequels in the early PC days, not only the series but the whole genre seemed to completely die out by the end of the 90s. Zombie Night Terror seems to come from an alternate dimension where Lemmings never went away and progressed like any other genre, until someone decided to add zombies to it. This isn’t a Lemmings clone, and it doesn’t feel like a rip-off in any way, instead it’s an intelligent puzzler with a zombie facade and a heft dose of inspiration from the challenges of Lemmings given an modern kind of challenge. This is much faster and much more entertaining, but still has that kind of cerebral challenge that we loved all those years ago.
In Zombie Night Terror you are tasked with leading the undead to try and take over the world through a series of objectives along a comic-book style story. There’s mad scientists, dangerous gangs, and plenty of environmental hazards to deal with, and your only tools are a bunch of zombies (or sometimes just an individual) that shamble around and are generally quite delicate when it comes to things like getting shot in the head or falling from great heights. Thankfully you’re given tools to enhance their abilities. These are gradually unlocked over the course of the game, but at first you are able to infect anyone on the map (albeit a very small number of people), choosing where to strike for maximum effect. Do you pick people in the most crowded rooms, do you pick people near exits, do you pick people with weapons? As the game goes on you generally don’t have that ability any more (it would make some maps way too easy) but you can put in blockers who stop zombies from passing, you can make them jump, you can speed them up, or you can even turn them into more dangerous mutants who can climb on walls or even explode. One of the most interesting innovations is how these skills can be combined. The blockers can be made to send all your zombies running, or throw them great distances, zombies that have been made to jump into the air can then be turned to bombs. Often these combinations aren’t explained in the tutorials, but they are essential to complete many of the ‘extra’ objectives as you move through the game. Every ability requires a certain amount of DNA which can be gained either from barrel pickups, killing people, or by sacrificing your own zombies. The resource management is very strict on many levels so it’s all the more satisfying when you get one where resources aren’t really an issue and you can create a huge horde of overpowered flesh-eaters.
For each mission there’s a standard win-state, and then an extra much harder challenge to go after if you want. These could be to complete it in a certain time, to kill everyone on the map, or to avoid losing any zombies, and all of the challenges are quite difficult, testing your multitasking abilities as well as how good you are at planning ahead. Watch some of the videos of how to do these challenges on youtube and you’ll see some truly remarkable plans being put into action.
While Zombie Night Terror is difficult, it unfortunately often strays into the vaguely unfair territory. Where failing in Lemmings was always your fault, there’s just enough randomness to ZNT that sometimes failure can feel like just bad luck. This is mostly because the NPCs will wander around and won’t always be in the same place. If you get an NPC with a weapon in just the wrong place, you can lose far too many zombies to continue, where next time you start it they’ll be next to a door and easy pickings. This lets down what would otherwise be a fantastic puzzle game, as it often leads to frustration and a temptation to just quit rather than to persevere. It also doesn’t help that many of the levels are preceded by a short prologue level that must be repeated if you leave the game and come back to it. No-one likes repeating levels for no reason.
If you like puzzle games, Zombie Night Terror is absolutely fantastic. It looks gorgeous, sounds great, and provides more than enough challenge for anybody. That being said, it’s a shame that some pitfalls can make it more frustrating than it needs to be and we definitely began to lose interest after the first section of the game.