Capsule Review: Zombie Blast Crew

Approachable twin-stick shooter action with an upgrade treadmill and no real story or other source of long-term appeal.

(A note on versions - Zombie Blast Crew was originally released as a mobile title in 2019. This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version released in 2020 which has similar gameplay but a different structure.)

A level-based isometric twin-stick shooter taking place in a zombie apocalypse. Each level has you defeating various types of zombies while completing a series of objectives that are mostly variations on defending an area for a set amount of time. These objectives generally last a couple of minutes in total; each mission also has two optional objectives and a few semi-hidden chests for extra rewards. Completing missions and objectives unlocks new build options and upgrades.

If it sounds similar to Space Pioneer, that’s because it is - it’s not quite the same game with a zombie-themed coat of paint, but it’s pretty close. And like its predecessor, it’s a straightforward formula with no real story, worldbuilding, or characterization to back it up - it’s just the gameplay loop and the zombie theming. And while the gameplay is still fairly solid, a few design changes mean that it isn’t as varied as it was in Space Pioneer.

What kept me going in Space Pioneer was continually changing my loadout and play style to suit the missions and objectives, meaning the formulaic and repetitive gameplay still kept a lot of variety. In Zombie Blast Crew, there’s less opportunity for that - each of the slowly-unlocked characters has a specific weapon that you can’t swap out, drastically cutting down on build options. Want Bill’s health-restore-on-kills ability to keep your health up? Then you’re getting his shotgun too, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Some character abilities are far more useful than others, meaning you’ll be using that character’s weapon more often as well.

On top of this, the game copies the worst design choice of Space Pioneer - upgrades are still blocked by both the grind-requiring coins and the random-drop upgrade cards, making it impossible to grind out upgrades in a targeted way. This becomes especially frustrating as optional objectives frequently come down to how quickly you are mathematically capable of dishing out damage (kill a target number of enemies in a timed survival level, or finish under a target time in a level with a specific number of enemies).

In a game where the long-term draw comes from progression, it’s a problem when that progression starts throwing up chicken-and-egg barriers. You can’t complete the objectives without better stats, but to improve your stats you need to grind out the objectives. This might make sense in the game’s free-to-play mobile version where you can buy your way out of the problem, but it doesn’t work in the premium Switch version with no microtransactions. And with less varied gameplay to keep things fresh, it’s harder to want to stick around and hope to get lucky with the upgrade cards.

I Stopped Playing When: I played for an hour or two, finishing about twenty levels before getting frustrated and bored enough that I put the game down.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.