Sunday, May 16, 2010
WiiWare Review - Zombie Panic In Wonderland
I spent a lot of time in arcades (remember those?) as a young lad, playing quite a few light gun games over those years. I also watched quite a bit of anime (I hear that's still popular), enjoyed fairy tales, and saw my fair share of zombie movies. I wasn't really expecting all of that to be thrown together during my lifetime, but recent WiiWare title Zombie Panic In Wonderland from AKAONI decided that all four of these needed to come together, right now, over me. The result was a somewhat short and repetitive yet still fun arcade shooter.
Zombie Panic In Wonderland is, in a word, Cabal. A more modern comparison for those of you who aren't fossils would be Sin & Punishment, but ZPIW isn't nearly as complicated as the Treasure rail shooter. Your goal is to find out why the residents of Wonderland are all being turned into amorous zombies, though I don't know how many are going to be left if you constantly kill all of them. Meh. Details. Anyway, aside from the goofy storyline the gameplay is straight up arcade light gun action where you have to kill a certain amount of enemies within the time limit and without taking too many hits. Along the way, you'll encounter and unlock various storybook characters to use, such as Snow White and Dorothy, and if you don't feel like shooting everything by yourself you can have a friend sit next to you and join the cutesy carnage.
One of the first things you'll notice about ZPIW is how Japanese the game really is. The music, the traditional Japanese house you start in, the cherry blossoms, the way the women from fables of old are portrayed (read: tarted up), and everything else all has that over the top anime feel. The zombies are about as cute as zombies can be, some of which are zombie ninjas, and the story is as ridiculous as you'd expect. Bosses are normally pretty huge and colorful, and everything comes together for a fun time. The music, however, isn't all that great, and hearing the same song for three stages in a row started to get on my nerves. It also should be noted that, during co-op, the game has a bit of slowdown in some areas and, when your partner continues after losing their last life, the game will freeze for half a second. Considering how often my girlfriend and I died, it was a considerably large annoyance.
The controls for the game work well. Wiimote aims, B fires, A tosses a grenade, and your Nunchuck moves you left and right. Hitting Z will perform a rolling dodge to the left or right (you'll use this a lot), and finally C will switch between your three weapons. This all works really well, except for one glaring omission...THERE'S NO PAUSE BUTTON OR EXIT OPTION. I admit that you can hit "Home" to pause and then hit "Restart" from there, but to not have them in the normal controls (and, because of this, have no "Options" menu for sound or dropping the second player and such during the game) seems really awkward. Otherwise, everything works as well as it should.
Even though I walked into this game knowing it'd be nothing but arcade fun, I still expected a little more. Your character choice is purely cosmetic with no effect on story, damage, weapons, anything. Picking Snow White or Alice for story mode still starts you in the same spot with the same cutscene that features the game's lone Y-chromosome. The only "differences" is that they each do different rolls to the left or right (though all have the same exact result) and you'll get more panty shots with Dorothy but more shots of sideboob with Snow White. Also, the stages seem to take just a hair too long for what is essentially the same exact thing over and over in each stage. I think I would've preferred shorter stages with a bit more variety, or a few other modes or even some goofy minigames to fit the theme of the game. And why the hell are there TWO of the same male character, Momotaro, to start with? Give us him and Dorothy to start so co-op out of the gate isn't confusing as you forget which generic anime kid you are while he eats random zombie projectiles.
The game doesn't take long to complete, lasting an hour if you go right through with no difficulty. Unlocking the other characters requires you to beat the game again and again (up to four times for the final one), but aside from this and the ability to unlock one challenging pirate stage there isn't much replay value. The game gets quite repetitive, there aren't any online leaderboards (only local), and the only mode besides "Story" is "Arcade" where you get to play specific levels from the Story mode. I'm more likely to recommend Sin & Punishment for the same price, or just to go out and find Ghost Squad or House of the Dead 2&3 for cheap. Still, fans of the light gun genre will find a few hours of fun with ZPIW, and the anime/zombie/light-gun/fable combination gives the otherwise somewhat generic game a bit of fun charm that somehow makes the game worth slightly more than the sum of its parts. Just don't go into this expecting too much.
Zombie Panic In Wonderland from AKAONI is available on the Wii for 1000 Wii Points. Played through Story mode, both alone and co-op, and saw more anime panties and sideboob than I expected. With my girlfriend sitting next to me. Awkwaaaaard...