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I, Zombie (Switch) artwork

I, Zombie (Switch) review

"I, Zombie is cute but doesn't feature enough depth to warrant long-term interest despite making a decent attempt."

In 1950, Isaac Asimov combined nine short stories he had written for sci-fi pulp magazines of the era. He published them as a new novel called "I, Robot," which featured an overarching narrative to suit the robotic theme that ran through his included work. Over the ensuing decades, that first volume would be followed by numerous novels that cemented their author as a leading voice in the genre. His name is tied to a magazine that is published to this day, and you can find references to his "three laws" of robotics in tech discussion on social media and in journals.

I, Zombie, a new game for Nintendo Switch that is a port of a previous PC release, has nothing whatsoever to do with Isaac Asimov, other than that it borrows the name of his famous novel. There are no robots, just zombies and their potential victims. You are one such zombie, actually, and your goal throughout 30 stages is to infect innocents who are protected by turrets and armed guards.

I, Zombie (Switch) image

The game's mechanics are pleasingly simple, thanks to very basic controls. With the left analog stick, you roam around single-screen environments. With the Y button, you summon zombies to your current location. Pressing the A button stops them in their tracks. Press B to instruct them to attack the nearest target, whether that be a juicy civilian or a dangerous soldier. That's essentially all there is to it.

Naturally, levels do force you to take different approaches and to think outside the box, or the game would grow tiresome almost immediately. The aforementioned turrets cut right through your fleshy body, and a stage ends prematurely if the lead zombie bites the big one. Soldiers are also able to pick you off from a fair distance, and will fire on you if you cross their line of sight within a certain range (even if you try to sneak up from behind). So you have to get creative, seeking out cover from crates and buildings so you can get close enough to either attack directly or to unleash your horde.

I, Zombie (Switch) image

Your performance in each stage is rated, from 1 to 3 stars. The score you are awarded depends on things like how many of your zombies survive the assault, or how quickly you are able to infect a scientist after avoiding his armed escort (in a few special stages). Your combined total of stars--up to a total of 90--determine your placement on the online leaderboards. I cleared all of the stages and managed an average of 2 stars on each one, for a total score of 62 that currently puts my worldwide rank at 28, one day after the game's release. I'm not sure a whole lot of people are going to play this one through to its conclusion in the months and years to come, let alone attempt to master it.

A healthy player population would theoretically be good for I, Zombie, too, as the game allows players to create their own custom levels. You can access the current lot available from the title screen, and they are sorted automatically according to their average user rating. Only eight display per page of results, though, and you have to wait several seconds to cycle between pages. That feels unnecessarily clunky to me. I downloaded the top-rated level and played through it rather easily, then decided to try putting together one of my own.

I, Zombie (Switch) image

What I quickly discovered is that I, Zombie is no Super Mario Maker. There's not a persistent toolbar on the screen, which means you have to press several buttons to first access the objects menu, then to cycle through object types, then to select the desired object from that grouping, then to move it around and place it. The whole affair feels tedious, even though I do appreciate the admittedly wide variety of options. And although I applaud the inclusion of a system that could potentially add a lot of life to the package, I suspect most would-be designers will grow tired of the whole process long before they create a masterpiece. I'm not convinced the level discovery system is up to the task even if the community surprises me with a bunch of great options somewhere down the road, either.

I, Zombie feels rough around the edges, from start to finish. It features effective but basic visuals, minimal sound effects and an assortment of stages that just... exist. There's no narrative, Asimov-like or otherwise. You simply clear the stages and return to the title screen. There aren't any closing credits to reward your effort, just the option to see who all was involved in the project by selecting an option from the title screen. The game honestly is not a terrible use of a spare couple of hours or so, which coincidentally is about how long you'll probably have to spend working your way through every stage. Unfortunately, the $4.99 price tag (compared to a more reasonable rate of $1.99 on Steam) makes the rather basic title difficult to recommend to any but absolute zombie enthusiasts.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (March 09, 2018)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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