by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Most fashionable bad guys
Right behind Nazis, aliens, and terrorists, zombies have got to be one of the most fashionable bad guys in gaming. I mean they are perfect, aren’t they? They’re dumb, slaves to sinister instincts, and there is no reason to feel bad about smushing or blasting them into oblivion. They are terrifying really, husks of their former selves doomed to roam the Earth consuming their friends and family until they either rot out of existence or take a high caliber bullet to the cranium. Developer Gentleman Squid Studios sees a lighter side to the mindless monsters though. In their puzzle platformer Three Dead Zed, a newer, shinier version of the game that made a splash on Xbox Live a few years ago, players control a trio of unique walkers (well, runners) as they try to escape from their human imprisoners. While the game isn’t perfect, mostly suffering from some control and detection issues, it is an enjoyable experience with lots of charm, laughs, and tense gameplay moments.
Weapons of Brain Destruction
When you think of the ultimate weapon, a zombie probably doesn’t come to mind. Nukes or nanobots maybe, but not a decomposing corpse. Well, in the world of Three Dead Zed scientists attempt to pull a Captain America and engineer a zombie smarter, faster, stronger, and all around better than its peers to serve the every beck and call of its creators. And you know what? They do a pretty darned good job. In fact, they create hybrid zombie capable of instantly and limitlessly transform into three different characters that each excel in tackling certain obstacles, which is where the core gameplay elements come from. Unfortunately for the humans, the zombie (zombies? I don’t know. Let’s just say it’s one) is somehow contacted by a mysterious man telling them how to get out – as long as the warp some special cats out of the complex along the way.
From there it is up to you to run, jump, smash, and chomp your way to freedom. How is the mysterious fellow able to talk to the zombies inside the facility, you ask? Why do the zombies listen to him with little to know convincing? Why does he care about cats? Why didn’t the humans put some better safety precautions in place while containing a super-zombie? Some of these questions will be answered, others not, but it’s not really all that important. While unraveling some of the mystery serves its purpose well enough, the narrative certainly takes a back seat to the often frantic and fast paced platforming puzzles.
Like I said above, the whole schtick of the game is the ability to almost-instantly switch between three unique zombies, the classic, the sprinter, and the brute. Each form controls extremely differently and comes with its own set of skills and drawbacks. The classic is the least exceptional, but doesn’t actually resemble a classic zombie all that much. He can run at a pretty decent pace, use switches, climb ladders, attack, and more. He’s the utilitarian. The sprinter, as his name implies, can run fast, jump far, and temporarily cling to walls to chain jumps, but it comes at the price of not being able to attack. The brute rounds out the trifecta as a huge hulking female who can’t really jump or move faster than a shuffle, but can smash the living crap out of just about anything. Early in the game the levels are divided into small sections clearly designed for each form, but it’s not long before you will be flying through the three at breakneck speeds.
For the most part the mechanic works really well. It can take some thinking to arrange a room to reach a switch to make a crazy jump, or wall jump, change to the brute mid-air to smash through a barrier, then switch to the classic before hitting the ground to grab a ladder.
Good level design, unique zombie forms, great visuals, and funny writing.
Some questionable voice acting, and inconsistent control with the sprinter form.