by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
Why are all the characters in Night in the Woods animals? It’s a question I often ponder, because while the game has a very real-world dialogue about the idea of hometowns and growing up, that’s where the realism ends. Do the animals make it funnier? More relatable? Do they resemble that child-like feeling you get in your hometown, of never quite being a grown up? Or does it resemble the way victims re-enact traumatic events using stuffed toys and animals? I’m not sure, but the latter is certainly true for Scheming Through The Zombie Apocalypse.
In this part-Day of the Tentacle, part-Night in the Woods you play as slacker animals, Hank and Larry, as they use their wits, wile and general stupidity to place others in harm’s way instead of themselves. Hank is a rabbit and a retired salesman, convinced he is a genius negotiator, despite the fact he is actually pretty blunt and frequently racist to other animals. Larry is his canine friend, but most notably, his drug dealer, and generally the one who suffers most when Hanks hare-brained schemes (see what I did there) backfire. You guide both as they make their way through the zombie apocalypse, scavenging what they can, and trying to grift any other animals they happen upon.
Scheming Through The Zombie Apocalypse is a comedy-story game, and most of the comedy comes from the dialogue. You are frequently given dialogue choices for both Hank and Larry as they encounter various animal survivors, and for the most part, the dialogue is quite funny. The gameplay mainly consists of Hank and Larry sitting in Hank’s old van ‘the mating machine’, using binoculars to guide whatever fool they’ve duped into scavenging for them. The choices you make will often effect how much loot you get, but also what happens to the character you have enlisted. You can then exchange this loot, or gamble it on a dice game to make even more loot. The main purpose of this being to enter the reputable scavengers guild and reach safety.
When playing the game, I felt like I was watching a cartoon about idiots trying to survive the zombie apocalypse, far funnier when the characters failed, than when they were actually succeeding. The loot doesn’t really serve much of a purpose (as your characters can’t eat or drink, or buy anything useful) so I began to actively sabotage/see the funniest situation I could place Hank and Larry in. This did lead to a series of hilarious moments, and it is funny watching Hank and Larry accidentally kill another well-meaning survivor through their incompetence. But it highlights an issue with the game for me - there isn’t really much play at all. Sure, there are choices, but in a comedic survival game with no survival mechanics, they don’t feel like they have any weight or consequence. Also beyond the binocular scavenging mini-game and the small sections walking through camps, the game is mostly dialogue. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, when the dialogue is consistent and funny, but in many ways, the game made me feel more like an observer than a player.
A FAIR AMOUNT OF FUN
I would recommend Scheming Through The Zombie Apocalypse; it’s not an expensive game and is sure to give players a fair amount of fun. But I would mainly recommend it to players for whom a funny story and dialogue can take precedence over mechanics and play. I did have fun with Hank and Larry, the dialogue is obviously very extensive, as the choices you make, do seem to affect your future encounters with characters and a tonne of other aspects within the game. Also the sub-title of ‘The Beginning’, implies an episodic format to the series, so mechanics could change, and it might be quite fun to follow Hank and Larry as things gradually get worse and worse.
Good dialogue, fun characters, a fair amount of choice.
Too much dialogue with not enough play.