What is it about so many different kinds of alien invaders that makes me think that natural selection didn't work properly on their home planet -- or that they're gluttons for punishment? Perhaps it's because any survivors of an attempt to invade that insignificant blue planet called Earth sooner or later come back at the forefront of another invasion? (And guess how that one turns out...)
Three years ago, the Non-Human Alliance took their chances using a freaking huge mothership, a zombie ray and - of course - an army of zombies (did someone show them Plan 9 From Outer Space?). As usual, it only took one soldier to kick their allied backsides to wherever it was they came from - and true to form, now they're back.
Their plan this time? BIGGER motherships. BETTER Zombie Ray. MORE zombies.
You know... I almost pity them.
Zombie Wars is a sequel to Alien Carnage, and much like the aliens' plan it can be described with three words: MORE, BIGGER, BETTER. At its core, the game remains unchanged: a fast-paced run-and-gun platformer, pitting the hero against hordes of zombies and aliens on the road to the objective. Why am I saying "the hero" rather than "Harry"? After the previous game, Controller Diane was promoted to Field Agent and is now a playable character. The only difference between them are the sprites and the pain sounds, though, with the gameplay remaining exactly the same.
The menagerie of zombie variants and alien critters you will face hasn't changed significantly from the original - at least I haven't seen any differences worth noting. The arsenal you'll wield against them has undergone a few changes, however: out of the original six weapons, the Flamer and Omega are both gone, with the Photon Cannon turned into your default weapon with unlimited ammunition. Say what you will, but I dearly miss the original's flamer and the way it shared fuel with your jetpack. Obviously, the new jetpack has no fuel limit, either. The last gadget in the armory is a shield you can use to briefly become invulnerable.
While playing through the game's ten missions (and more than twice as many levels), you'll quickly notice that rescuing the hostages is no longer mandatory - that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, however, as rescuing all hostages in a level unlocks the Zombie Apocalypse bonus sequence after its completion. Besides the hostages and a never-ending stream of respawning zombies, the levels are also packed wall-to-wall with hidden bonuses and secret passages for you to find - making the already fast gameplay even more fun.
Visually, you're in for a treat - while the resolution is still 320x200, the sprites in Zombie Wars have noticeably improved from the previous game, plus the intro and outro are fully animated (it's worth noting that these were missing from many of the game's official releases - including just about every version you can find on other abandonware sites).
There isn't much to say either for or against the sound effects and music - the music has its high points, but nothing particularly awe-inspiring (most of it gets sort of lost underneath all the gunfire and explosions).
Being the grumpy nit-picking bastard that I am, I can't help but point out that the game's tendency to occasionally switch back to joystick controls, and a lack of level selection options in fullscreen mode, are mildly annoying (as much as neither directly affects the gameplay itself).
All in all, an unexceptional but fairly decent representative of its genre, and a good game to spend a few evenings with.
* This game requires Windows 3.x or 9x to run. It won't work on Windows 2000 and newer. A pre-configured copy of Windows 3.11 is available from our Programs page.
* You may need to disable DOSBox's MPU-401 emulation (mpu401=none) in order for the music to work as supposed to. Some reports indicate you may also have to change the MIDI settings in Windows 3 ( Program Manager -> Main -> Control Panel -> Midi Mapper -> Name: SB16 All Synth or SB16 Ext Synth).