Just like an overwhelming flesh-hungry horde of zombies, the market of video games is flooded. Try typing the words “zombie game” in Google and see how many hits you get. Beginning with George Romero’s Zombi movies, zombie mania has only picked up in momentum in recent years. Put aside the werewolves, sparkling vampires, and mummies, we have some zombie hunting to do.
We could begin to discuss how the zombie genre is a reflection of society’s apparent worship of consumerism, but it’s let’s skip that. Not Dying Today is a game that truly embraces its colors, and is a hell of a ride along the way. It doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel or send a cautionary tale about our own inner ambitions. What Not Dying Today does is opens its doors, which just happen to lead to a heavily armored Humvee, armed with chainsaw access and rotating flamethrowers. In other words, a normal Monday workday for me.
I start up the game and immediately recognize the colorful interface it has.You can have up to four players join you on your zombie-slaying quest and it also supports controllers! So if you have an Xbox controller or another compatible third party controller with Steam, plug it in to complete that ultimate hit of 2D beat-em-up nostalgia.
After getting through the main settings, such as picking my difficulty, looking at the other modes they have, and grasping a general sense of what I’m walking into, I go to the character select screen. What grabbed my attention the most about this is the inviting, somewhat-child friendly graphics influenced in the character design. Not Dying Today seems to have taken influence from high testosterone fueled awesomeness of 80s and 90s action flicks and infused it in the typical desperate struggle of taking down zombies so they don’t chomp on your brains.
From the character select screen, you choose what character you want to be. From my own trial-and-error runs, I didn’t see a distinct difference between each class. The fun Easter egg about this part was there was a “Rick” skin, that was an obvious tribute to Rick Grimes of The Walking Dead. Even on the opening menu screen, there’s a familiar sword-wielding heroine, lashing against the horde of zombies.Little did I know that was just the beginning of easter eggs, but I’ll explain that more in game play discussion.
Okay, so I picked my character and the story begins. The narrative is focused in a comic-book fashion, showing panels of dialogue, as the main character interacts with others. Our hero, Aiden, is on a quest to get to the bottom of this outbreak, along with busting some zombies along the way. I picked out my primary weapons, a bat and a pistol, and began my quest to see what the heck I can do to end this outbreak.
In addition to the beat-em-up style of combat, Not Dying Today has RPG elements. After each area of the level is completed, you are taken to a pause screen. From here, you can level up your Power, Life, Agile, and Luck traits. Power pertains to how much melee damage you do to zombies and other enemies. Life is what you make of it, but in the case of Not Dying Today, it pertains to how much health Aiden has. The agile trait pertains to how much damage you do with your ranged weapons. Lastly, the luck trait hinges upon what percentage of your hits to the zombies are critical hits.
The game is divided into 7 acts. Within those acts, there are certain areas to complete and at the end of the act, you will face a boss. Mixed in with this game play is an interesting game mechanic that isn’t used often in the zombie genre. Without giving too many details, something happens and next thing you know, you’re able to transform into a super zombie, able to dispatch any and most enemies in a couple of hits. To balance this power up, you are given a time meter that diminishes as you progress physically in the game.
The weapons you’re able to use are in a couple of tiers. First, there’s your melee weapon,. The basic bat starts you off, but son you’re able to upgrade to a mchate, then a powerful axe. Next, there’s your ranged class of weaponry. You start off with the usual pistol , but soon you’re able to get to the awesome crossbow, which I personally enjoy because you can retrieve your arrows if you get them before they disappear in the area. That being said, all of the weapons in your inventory are able to be upgraded. The game sticks to traditional base damage, instead of adding elemental damage of lightning, fire, or ice as some other games of this genre tend to factor in.
Each of the weapons I listed do feel different enough where it can change the game play. Though I chose the axe, it took me longer to strike a zombie down and it left me vulnerable to attacks. Other weapons like the baseball bat or a machete can be upgraded to deal more damage and may have a quicker striking speed. Experiment with the different weapons and find one that suits your play style.
In addition to your primary weapon set you’ll be using, you’ll have 2 gadget classes to use. The 2 I mainly stuck to were grenades and dynamite. Grenades detonate a couple of seconds after you chunk it at a group of zombies. The dynamite is based on a quick timer. You plant it where you want, and then run, hoping the zombies start shambling toward it.
The last part of Not Dying Today are the 2 additional modes offered from the start menu. There is a horde based survival mode, pitting you against an endless wave of zombies. The main objective of this is to take down as many as you can before they get you. Occasionally, among all the modes of Not Dying Today, health powerups in the form of food or ammo will be dropped after disposing of the zeds. This keeps the game’s economy healthy after a grueling boss battle you may have to try a couple of times.
The last mode offered is a boss battle mode. It takes all the bosses collectively involved in the game’s campaign and makes it a sort of arena based mode. It’s you and any of your friends vs. the bosses listed. Because of the variety of bosses listed, replayability is high, as you can try out new ways to take down the bosses as quickly as possible.
The only things I could think of that Not Dying Today lacks in is repetitiveness. Each stage of the main campaign consists of killing X amount of zombies, grabbing a power up or two, then taking down the main boss. Rinse and repeat. Thankfully, the additional modes and achievements, paired with cooperative play give Not Dying Today a second life in terms of play ability.
Overall, I’d recommend Not Dying Today. In a field crowded with a lot of zombie-based survival games, it really sets itself apart by being fun. Sure, it can be a little aggravating to die for the third time against a boss, but just respawn back in, level up your skills and weapons, then get back in there! Humanity isn’t going to save itself.
If you’re really interested in this game, I’d recommend waiting for a Steam sale and grab it for a good afternoon killer with some friends. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go reload my arrows again to practice my head shots.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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