Despite being clobbered in sales by the Nintendo DS, Sony's PlayStation Portable still offered an incredible library of diverse titles over its seven year run. From God of War to Metal Gear Solid, the UMD-based handheld was home to some of the biggest franchises in the world. It also offered an impressive collection of smaller titles, including one of my favorite games of this generation -- OMG-Z.
Sadly, only a handful of people discovered the brilliance of OMG-Z. It, like so many smaller games on the PSP, was all but ignored by the masses (including game critics). But just like the flesh-eating zombies that infest every level, Laughing Jackal's puzzler has been resurrected for a brand new console. Regardless of whether you own the original or are discovering the series for the first time, OMG HD Zombies is a must-buy for every PS Vita owner.
For those who missed out on the 2011 original, OMG HD Zombies is one of the few games to combines the mayhem of the walking dead with the explosive fun of chain reactions. It actually has a very simple premise, which involves an armed survivor attempting to kill an army of meandering zombies with only a few bullets. But don't worry, because in this game our hero is always safely perched high above the brain-devouring masses. This is definitely not your typical horror game.
How do you kill one hundred smelly zombies with only three bullets? In the case of OMG HD Zombies, it all comes down to choosing your targets wisely. There are eight different types of undead characters to shoot at, each with a slightly different dying move. For example, the zombie cop shoots straight forward, killing whatever is standing directly in front of him. There's a bloated zombie who explodes the moment your bullet spikes his flabby exterior. And don't forget about the bilous zombie, which bursts into a pool of acid when killed.
Each of these zombie types is specifically designed to trigger a chain reaction, allowing the player to take out dozens of walkers with a single, well-placed shot. This shot may also include flaming barrels, which are occasionally scattered randomly throughout the stages. With a little skill and a whole lot of luck, it's possible to safely wipe out every zombie with a single shot.
This HD upgrade offers three new types of enemies, two of which are strong additions to the series. The first is the mortar zombie, the worst of the eight enemy classes. Upon his death, the mortar zombie shoots his head into the air, randomly landing somewhere in the level. Thankfully the other two zombie types are more useful and interesting. The runner zombie is a woman who runs to the other side of the level when she dies. This is useful when you want to move the chain reaction to a new group of baddies. The final new character is the zapper zombie, who shoots out an electric shot and shocks nearby enemies.
The player fights through 100 black-and-white stages, featuring locations as diverse as a prison, the city streets, a schoolyard, the abandoned highway, a sports arena and more. Sometimes the locations are only cosmetic, while other times they present obstacles for the zombies (and the player) to deal with. The prison stages, for example, are a series of corridors and tight cells, while the town square is nothing more than one huge mob of unobstructed zombies. It's also worth noting that OMG HD Zombies feature nearly twenty brand new stages to work through.
As a PSP Mini, OMG-Z involved players moving a cursor around and taking precise shots. Thankfully this HD upgrade takes advantage of the PS Vita's touchscreen. This time around you control everything with one finger, resulting in an even more intuitive experience. Even when the enemies are bunched together, it's easy to pick out the right zombie and take my shot. The only time the touchscreen is problematic is when the game places buttons on the upper corners. For whatever reason, these buttons don't work as advertised. If this proves to be a hurdle you can't overcome, the game does offer D-pad support, complete with a cursor.
Although the premise is simple, clearing out each stage is not. This is especially true early on, before the player spends any money on upgrades. The good news is that you aren't required to kill 100% of the zombies. In fact, each of the 100 stages offers four different medals -- bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Each of these medals comes with prize money, which can be used to upgrade bullets and enemy effectiveness. This means that many stages will need to be played multiple times in order to earn the most money and buy all of the upgrades.
There's a reason that all this is so addictive, but I can't quite put my finger on it. It's so simple that some could argue that OMG HD Zombies is built entirely on luck. And while there certainly is an element of luck involved, that doesn't take away from how satisfying it is to wipe out one hundred zombies in a single shot. This is now my third time playing through the OMG-Z series, and I still can't get enough of watching the explosive chain reaction caused from a well-placed bullet.
The various types of zombies and diverse stages all look sharp on the PS Vita screen; though this is not the huge step forward some may have hoped for. On the other hand, the original PSP game still looks amazing. The art style looks like it is ripped straight out of a comic book, so I'm not sure what more I would want out of the visuals.
When it comes right down to it, I'm only disappointed that OMG HD Zombies is not a true sequel. Even with three new enemy types, this really is just a retread of the 2011 game. Of course, that's only bad for those of us who loved the original. For many, this HD upgrade will be their first crack at the brilliant puzzler. And maybe then we can finally look forward to OMG More HD Zombies, or whatever silly name they decide to use for the sequel.
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