Just in time for Christmas is another horror game in time for the holidays. Burn Baby Burn is an indie game developed by developer Doublesix. The game is a twitch arcade game in which you control Bruce, a 50s greaser whose job is to set a whole assload of zombies on fire and then kill them, all the while avoiding the death of your greasy compadre and his half-witted girlfriend.
In Burn Zombie Burn, you play as Bruce, a 50s era greaser. The game's a top down run-and-gun with four game modes: regular freeplay, defend your girlfriend, timed, and challenge (the review will mostly cover freeplay). Your job is to light zombies up and then obliterate them for points, and you keep doing this until you eventually succumb to math, or zombie death, whichever comes first.
I hope the gel's flammable
When the game starts off, you spawn as our handsome big-jawed hero Bruce. A wave of zombies first appears, and after you make short work of them, the game really starts. Guns start spawning, zombies start attacking in swarms, and you start panicking. The game is seemingly straightforward; a swarm of zombies come after you, and you gun/beat them to death like a top down Serious Sam. You gain bonus points for killing them while on fire (most zombies will try to avoid you if you bust your torch out). The game doesn't actually end until you die; what differentiates a victory from a loss is basically how much you score before you kick the bucket.
Although gameplay wise it doesn't look like the game has a lot of depth, that's actually surprisingly far from the truth. Each level places various obstacles and enemy placements that affect what strategies are effective for certain levels. In some of the earlier levels, for example, I usually just lit enemies on fire and then let them gather towards a chokepoint where I chainsawed them to death. On the final level, however, exploding zombies spawned within the crowd; this meant that lighing enemies on fire may detonate the exploding zombie, which meant that you lost points as you didn't cause the explosion directly. Thus, I had to use a new strategy, which was cheating the hell out of the last level because it was too hard. In any case, the levels you choose to play, the weapons you're able to pick up, and the selection of enemies per wave can greatly affect what strategies are effective, forcing the player to remain flexible.
Another gameplay elements that players have to take into account is the actual lighting on fire of zombies. Though lighting them on fire and then killing them increases the amount of points you get for popping their heads, but it also changes their aggro rate and their drops. Normal zombies usually won't actively chase you, and when they're killed normally they drop drops like health and explosives. Lighting them on fire will make them chase the hell out of you, increases their damage, and makes them drop explosive upgrades instead of health. Thus, players will have to learn how to properly manage outbreaks of lit zombies; a level full of flaming zombies (no homo) will give the player to breathing room to escape, while a level with no flaming zombies means no points, and thus you're guaranteed to not get a medal. Getting the higher level medals require that you learn not only how to start zombie-fires, but also learn how to control and break them before they get out of hand.
This is actually considered an ideal situation
Not surprisingly, this makes Burn Zombie Burn a surprisingly difficult game, and it uses no lube for virgins of the game. When I first played the game, I pretty much assumed it was mindless. It didn't take long before the game carved me a new one. Eventually, I was forced to learn to use fire...until fires got out of hand and then I was turn into the game's wife. This game forces you to KNOW how to use its weapons, KNOW how to approach zombies, KNOW how to navigate the map, and KNOW how to balance the zombie horde. I wanted to lob the game a point for its difficulty, but really, I cant blame a game for my sucking at it.
Gameplay variety is adequate despite that there only a handful of levels in the game. As mentioned earlier, there are four modes (though I only really played freeplay) and there are three levels of difficulty. Enemy variety and firearm variety is satisfactory for the kind of game that this is, and you'll need to spend more time mastering the game than by complaining about more variety.
Pretty much everything
So what shortcomings are there for the game? Well, there are a few technical things that need to be polished. First things first, the targeting is sometimes out of whack. Instead of a targeting cursor, where you aim is determined by a sort of light shining down on the ground that shows where you're aiming at. This means that when aiming with guns, you might somehow shoot over them in a 2D game (how does that work?), and when using melee weapons, it doesn't really show where your chainsaw or lawnmower's aiming at. Another criticism is how long it takes Bruce to drop a bomb, gun, or switch to his torch. Even how he's supposed to be able to kick TNT (as oppose to throwing it?) takes too long. I know this all sounds minor, but split second changes make a big difference in this game. And what's the deal with the gun system in the game? It seems like Bruce loses his current gun whenever he runs over another game, and there's nothing more irking than losing your gatling gun because you picked up a cricket bat accidentally.
The game's system requirements are:
OS: Windows XP (Service Pack 3), Windows Vista, Windows 7
Processor: 1.8 GHz, Dual Core
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: DirectX® 9 compliant graphics adaptor. 512 MB, With Shader Model 3.0
DirectX®: DirectX® 9
Hard Drive: 2 GB space free
Sound: DirectX® 9 compliant sound card
Which looks somewhat high, but most computers can handle it. I didn't bother with my netbook because there are hundreds of zombies on screen at a time, and this game doesn't play well as a slideshow. When playing, my FPS were about 20+, which seems odd because the game ran butter smooth with my graphics card.
There aren't any real bugs for the game that I know of, and I doubt there are any mods. As for value, it's a hit or miss. I've only put in four hours into it with just freeplay, and I'm sure others would put in a lot more. The game's available on steam (not sure at anywhere else) for $10, but it goes on sale frequently. I got the game as part of a $5 bundle of indie games, so I guess it's all right for the value of about $1 USD.
The game is seemingly simple but has a steep learn-as-you-go learning curve, making it a frustrating (or challenging if you prefer) game, but it does what it's supposed to do; it's a single player Left 4 Dead on crack (you'll kill thousands of zombies per level if you're good, and there are explosions everywhere). This will certainly appeal to some people, but it's not really for me. However, I felt that it deserved more than a 7 because A) It only cost me a dollar B) It's technically more or less perfect with the exception of the few annoyances C) It is challenging, tense, and never boring. If you like run-and-gun games (Serious Sam, a few of those old school arcade games) then this game is for you. It's got a good amount of depth, and it's really a great lunchbreak sized game if you've got a proper netbook for it.
- Make Bruce respond faster when weapon switching and make aiming more clear. These small changes really make the difference between life and death in a game like this.
- Why not a bit of cooperative multiplayer? You have to imagine a giant map with 4 different Bruces running around with hordes of burning zombies.
- This is beyond the scope of the game, but how about a few toys to play with like turrets or vehicles if the the above suggestion is implemented? This would add even more depth to the game.
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