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Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov's Revenge (PlayStation Network)

Game Review

Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov's Revenge Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Robert Ramsey

Dead in the middle

Real-time strategy games have always been difficult to execute on consoles. Without a mouse, scrolling over huge maps with an analogue stick is far harder than you may imagine, while assigning commands to various buttons on a controller leads to some haphazard control schemes. Enter Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge, a relatively simple entry into a complex genre, built from the ground up for both the PlayStation 3 and the Vita.

You may be sick of seeing zombies these days – and it’s no surprise. Refusing to shuffle away from popular culture, the undead still appear just about everywhere that you look, from television shows to games, to books and graphic novels. But while the majority of what we see lends itself to gritty realism, Zombie Tycoon 2 takes a step into comedic territory, where zombies are bright green, make silly noises, and are controlled by a mad scientist named Orville Tycoon.

You’ll be guiding the tyrannical professor in his quest to put an end to his former mentor-turned-rival Brainhov, who has given rise to a similar army of brain-munching fiends. The plot is mostly conveyed through humorous cut-scenes, the majority of which are entertainingly crazy. Despite the total lack of dialogue, Tycoon and his zombie horde have a lot of personality due to their cartoony, exaggerated animations, which when coupled with the game’s offbeat colour palette and eerie setting make for a visually charming title.

However, there’s only so far such a purposefully barebones plot can go, evidenced by the campaign’s meagre number of chapters. To be fair, each section is surprisingly lengthy, and missions take place on sometimes dauntingly large maps. There’s also a handy checkpoint system which allows you the opportunity to quit the game if the need arises, although it’s usually more likely to hamper your progress rather than preserve it.

Tycoon himself takes to the battlefield riding atop his mobile spawner, which acts as both a deployment point for the undead, and a dangerous weapon thanks to its mounted minigun. If you lose this particular asset, it is game over, and because of the previously mentioned checkpoint system, you can often reload to find yourself ready to kick the bucket. This typically means restarting an entire chapter can be more beneficial, regardless of the accompanying frustration.

Compounding the problem further, the title employs a fog of war mechanic, which obscures the map until your units march into an area and discover what’s hidden there. This can lead to some seemingly unfair moments where more powerful adversaries ambush you with little chance of survival. It also doesn’t help that some chapter’s objectives are little more than vague descriptions, forcing you to try numerous doomed approaches until one strategy suddenly clicks.

Speaking of strategy, there generally isn’t much of it to be found in the campaign. It’s never truly explained whether different troops have unique weaknesses, or if one group of slobbering corpses has an advantage over another. Most of the time you’ll simply be sending all of your available allies straight into the nearest fight, hoping superior numbers is enough to clobber your foes into submission.

Even worse, the game attempts to incorporate styles of gameplay that don’t gel with real-time strategy whatsoever. There’s a particularly out of place boss fight that sees you avoiding enemy attacks while trying to get in close and munch down a ridiculously large health bar. This would be bearable in a platformer, for example, but trying to guide a single unit around multiple floor-based traps by frantically moving and clicking your cursor is nothing short of an exercise in hopelessness.

But it’s not all bad. There are definitely glimpses of great gameplay here and there, and in short bursts the title can keep you hooked as long as your strategies go according to plan. The constant introduction of new zombie classes helps keep things moderately interesting too, and it’s hard not to enjoy commanding bigger and more powerful units.

Actually guiding your hordes around the ruins of civilisation is easy. Each group has a designated face button, and tapping it will send that unit marching to the location of your pointer. It all feels intuitive and well designed, although the AI does get itself muddled at times. This simple interface is easily one of the game’s greatest achievements, and is just enough to stop the single player proceedings from being overly aggravating.

Each chapter essentially boils down to moving your army from objective marker to objective marker, capturing buildings and brawling with opponents as the situation demands. It’s a simple formula to get to grips with but things get extremely repetitive later on, especially as the difficulty ramps up rather unexpectedly. It’s unfortunate, because the title’s loveable art direction and dark sense of humour promises so much more.

However, all is not lost. Despite the frustrating single player offering, there’s a lot of fun to be had in the release’s multiplayer component. Although it’s left a little lacking in terms of options, battling friends and strangers alike is really where the title’s strengths come into focus.

The basics of gameplay remain unchanged – the mobile spawner is still the crux of your army, and you’ll still be sending out groups of undead to engage enemies and capture buildings in order to expand and upgrade your horde. However, the presence of a human opponent turns the battlefield into a tensely strategic playground. The pace of the gameplay increases dramatically; you’ll be racing to capture locations for yourself, in constant fear that the enemy will get there first, ultimately resulting in exhilarating battles.

Meanwhile, the experience is very much the same on Sony's handheld console. Like many other cross-play titles, its gameplay benefits from the system's portability, but in this case the handheld release is marred by frame-rate issues when the action becomes hectic. We also encountered a number of annoying bugs on both platforms, with some of our zombies becoming invisible or getting lodged in the scenery, rendering them useless. In both cases, these problems may force you to restart the chapter entirely, depending on the scenario.

Conclusion

There are certainly enjoyable moments to be found in Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge, but they’re buried beneath repetitive gameplay and unnecessarily frustrating mechanics. The multiplayer chaos is just enough to keep you coming back, but things are never quite as well crafted as the charming art direction would lead you to believe.

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User Comments (17)

Sanquine

#1

Sanquine said:

5? Damn ... It was 9euro ? It is cross play cross save ... Had expected atleast a 6. Oohw well i will buy this when this game is cheaper

get2sammybAdmin

#2

get2sammyb said:

Just a reminder that a 5 is an average on our scale. That means that while there are flaws, you may still really like the game — as pointed out in the review! :)

Splat

#3

Splat said:

I got it off plus but only played it for a few minutes. I need to sit down with it and learn what I'm doing. I never played the first one.

That is if I can stop playing Tomb Raider long enough. :)

Epic

#4

Epic said:

The campaign may not be fun but just like the review said the multiplayer is really fun and everyone should check it out and everyone should consider this site score policy just like @get2sammyb said 5 is a standard nice game that its not for everyone if you like the concept and strategy just get it if not stay away simple as that.

If anyone wants to play just tell me and if you have problems understanding the games a made a quick guide may not be the best around but it still cover few aspects.

Here's the link:
http://www.pushsquare.com/forums/viewtopic.php?pid=6970#p6970
If you have any questions I will be happy to answer after more than 50 matches I think I may be able to answer any question regarding the game.
If anyone wants to play with me just PM me on PSN and please no Blank friends invites.

ShogunRokAdmin

#5

ShogunRok said:

Just thought I'd drop in to add a couple of thoughts.

For starters, @Epic is right. The game really shines in multiplayer - definitely take a look at the guide if you want to get into it (some people really have no clue how to play the game).

Secondly, like what's been said, a 5 is average. This certainly isn't a bad game, but unlike many sites (I'm sad to say) we like to think we use the 1-10 scale correctly. And in that regard, the multiplayer and art direction really holds this release up.

A 5/10 is indicative of a game that some will no doubt enjoy.

jgrangervikings

#6

jgrangervikings said:

The multi-player is fantastic, though it doesn't have split-screen multi-player. The really cool thing is that the PS3 and Vita work together, so I was able to play against my friend at my friend's house. He played on his PS3 and I played against him using my Vita. Fantastic experience!

Ginkgo

#7

Ginkgo said:

I am really not trying to be picky, but I do believe that there is a general misconception.The average score awarded to games on PushSquare (like other sites) is not 5. A 5 may be the magic line, where a game gets more right than it does wrong, but that is not the same thing.

Dumping the games list from this site into Excel (back to Jan 2011, I got bored at that point) the average score awarded to games by Push Square is 6.8, not 5. With a total of 392 games rated in that period.

1 - 1s, 5 - 2s, 14 - 3s, 16 - 4s, 43 - 5s, 61 - 6s, 100 - 7s, 91 - 8s, 55 - 9s, 6 - 10s

Interestingly only 79 games were awarded a 5 or less, which represents 20% of rated games. So that rating puts this game in the bottom 20%, which is definitely not average.

A coupe of other interesting points, is that when I did an initial check with only 2012/2013 data the average score was higher, meaning that PushSquare reviews are averaging higher scores now than in earlier years.

I have also posted previously that the average PS3 score on metacritic for 2012 was 70.3. So Push Square is generally a slightly harder marker than the average site.

Ginkgo

#8

Ginkgo said:

On a completely different topic. Ruse proved that Move works great as mouse replacement for RTS. Just a pity that more games didn't make use of it.

Pollo

#9

Pollo said:

Yeah,like Ginkgo said.
Giving 5's for games you consider average/good seems a bit brutal.

ShogunRokAdmin

#10

ShogunRok said:

@Ginkgo It seems like a harder mark because we're using the 1-10 scale correctly. A 5 is a game that's slap bang in the middle. We can't help it if more games end up higher. At the end of the day, we give games a score based on our Scoring Policy which you can view at the bottom of every page. It's as simple as that.

charlesnarles

#12

charlesnarles said:

Yeah lol F is average, you guys... : )
I was under the impression that all rating scales are arbitrary in nature and subjective in practice. Is there actually a list of criteria used to give each game a school grade? Cause other sites don't seem to, hence my 'tude.

Squiggle55

#13

Squiggle55 said:

In theory and according to the scoring policy, a 5 is not necessarily a bad thing. But in reality not many games score that low or below. I like the idea of using the 1-10 scale correctly and I support that notion, but even on this site traditionally a 5 looks pretty bad.

But with that being said, just start throwing out more 5's on reviews of truly average games and it will really drive the scoring policy home for people.

Ginkgo

#15

Ginkgo said:

@ShogunRok Firstly, the work which all of the reviewers do on this site is really appreciated. Hence why I frequent the site. Thank you.

I guess my pedantic nature just gets hung up on the usage of the "average", which I think is being misunderstood.

For example: "A 5 is a game that's slap bang in the middle.", but in the middle of what? It can't just mean the middle of the scoring system - which I have read ;-).

Something that is "average" by definition of the word, is in the middle of its peers.i.e. when compared to other games. That cannot be true if a 5 is only given in 20% of cases, and 80% of releases are rated higher.

Or are you saying that 5 is an average of all games released, and Push Square is generally only rating the better ones that are released?

ShogunRokAdmin

#16

ShogunRok said:

@Ginkgo You've made this point before and rest assured I know where you're coming from. We're both on the same page here but taking different meanings from this.

As you say, a true average (by definition of the word) would mean the mathematical average gained from all of our collective reviews. When I or anyone else say 5 is the 'average' score, we're simply using the word as shorthand for a game that's neither good nor bad.

In that regard, I see where you're coming from. If 5 is the middle distance, then surely more games would be there. However, I don't think we can look at gaming and apply a mathematical formula to it. We can't, for example, say two games which both got the same score are exactly the same in terms of quality. If anything, the 1-10 scale is there simply to give readers a quick guideline as to how good the title is.

Taking this into account, then it would appear most games we've reviewed are indeed above 'average'. That's just how it goes. Personally, when I'm reviewing a game, I don't think of a number and write the review to go along with it. I have to weigh up the pros and cons of each release and then apply a score - and to do that, I have to look at the site's review policy and pick the one with the accurate description.

As you've rightly pointed out ("For example: "A 5 is a game that's slap bang in the middle.", but in the middle of what? It can't just mean the middle of the scoring system") no scoring system is ideal. If anything, the review itself should be read in order to get a feel of our opinion on the game. But alas, this is the industry we have.

Anyway, in an attempt to answer your question, a 5 SHOULD be the middle ground, and should describe a title that has both good and bad points in equal measure. I guess that also means it can be a love it or hate it title. There's no denying that over the years, the internet has warped the rating system. We live in a time where a 7 is regarded as the baseline of a good game, and anything below is bad.

Again, I understand where you're coming from, and the use of the word 'average' can be a tricky one, especially if taken in the way you've pointed out. At the end of the day, we can only review games based on our own guidelines, and not the guidelines of others. In this sense, a 5 will always be a game that is neither good nor bad, and I suppose that also means we're lucky to have so many games that sit above this score.

Ginkgo

#17

Ginkgo said:

@ShogunRok : “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means” - Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride ;-)

I agree with everything you say about not applying a mathematical formula to games etc, I’m certainly not trying to change the way you or PushSquare scores games. 5 is an appropriate score for “a game that is neither good nor bad”.

I just don’t believe that ‘average’ is an accurate (or helpful) word to describe “good and bad points in equal measure”. It is likely to be misunderstood again and again, which I clearly what has happened to me here.

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