I, Zombie is the type of the game that could easily fall underneath the cracks of the Nintendo Switch’s ever-expanding indie library. It is short, mostly uninspired, and all-in-all a forgettable experience. The game’s core – controlling zombies that hunt after humans – is an interesting twist on the myriad of indie games pitting humans against zombies. And, to I, Zombie’s credit, it executes this central experience well. However, the game’s framework lacks the ambition and innovation necessary for it to stick out in a dense market. Despite having an appropriately cute visual style, surprisingly catchy tunes, and an innovative premise, I, Zombie mostly falls flat as an indie game on the Switch.
I, Zombie is sectioned into 30 different levels, and they typically start you with control of a single zombie. For the most part, the objective of these levels is to infect every human. Bringing humans to the dark side is simply a matter of draining their health before their gunfire tears you apart, and your zombie automatically attacks while within close range of a human. Gunshots essentially stop your zombie in its tracks, so approaching armed humans requires finesse.
While simply clearing a level is enough to give you access to the next, higher-quality play earns a better star rating. The ratings are determined by the time taken to complete a level and the number of zombies alive by its end, along with a few other rotating factors depending on the level. If you’re a perfectionist, you might take time to “three star” levels, but if not there isn’t much motivation to do so.
When in control of zombies other than yourself, you have three commands to issue: follow, attack and stop. While this may sound limited, these three actions give more than enough control to handle the situations the game throws at you. On a few occasions, I had five or more zombies following me around. Ordering a group of this size to attack two or three soldiers and emerge victorious evokes a feeling of power, and I only wish the scale of conflict was a little bit higher in this regard. In other words, I wish that the game would have raised the scope and included conflicts with larger groups of both humans and zombies. There is a simplicity that I, Zombie nails in its current form, but more moving parts would add a lot, even if the difference were purely visual.
While there is some room for deviation when attempting to clear and perfect I, Zombie‘s 30 levels, a single definitive route often bears the most fruit. Because of this required preciseness, a significant part of playing I, Zombie boils down to planning and mapping out your pathway to victory. When humans are infected, you gain control of them as additional zombies, which naturally makes solo humans a more logical starting target than bigger groups.
Unfortunately, even the later levels in I, Zombie rarely task the player with more difficult mental challenges. Many of the levels are best completed by going from the smallest group of humans to the largest, and shifts to this formula are at most minor. Oftentimes, a level’s biggest challenge is finding the right time to approach, as moving humans always follow a visually demonstrated route. Successfully timing an ambush is rarely satisfying. The guard’s omnipotence, through both their perfect vision and gun accuracy, make the margin of error small.
While the game’s humans behave consistently, always noticing zombies at the same range and firing bullets with similar speeds, adapting to their patterns is much more of an annoying trial-and-error experience than anything genuinely rewarding. If you move past a corner a millisecond too quickly, armed humans will stop in their tracks and begin laying down fire. If you manage to only catch the eye of one of the humans, and routes are disrupted, then levels become especially hard to complete with a high rating. Much of this is mitigated by the incredibly short time spent in each level; restarting is a simple as holding down a button, and you rarely spend more than a couple minutes per each attempt.
Still, the gameplay loop of I, Zombie essentially feels like rolling dice until variables align in the right way rather than organically improving at the game and then being challenged with more difficult variants and levels. By the time I, Zombie’s 30 levels ended, I didn’t feel any better at the game. There is no “language” to I, Zombie, no set of unifying systems for the player to learn and become more competent with. Rather, I felt as if I spent enough time hammering myself into an obvious “right solution” until it manifested into a cleared level. Of course, I didn’t dedicate myself to three-starring every single stage, and this would admittedly add some more of a skill requirement. But there’s little motivation to do so, especially when the process of perfecting an I, Zombie level is so frustrating.
Interestingly, I, Zombie features a Community Levels mode which allows players to create their own levels and upload them for others to play. Within this mode, there are leaderboards for comparing scores with others. This type of community integration is awesome, but with so few stakes, the small player base and lack of reward based on skill, it does little to make the whole package feel worth it. But it’s certainly a feature worth thinking about, especially if you are the specific type of person who finds I, Zombie’s gameplay enticing. Community-made levels provide endless content, and while not all of them are guaranteed to be on par with the developer’s authored content, there’s value in volume.
I, Zombie is one of the cheaper offerings on the Switch’s e-shop, available for $4.99. Yet, your money is probably better spent elsewhere. I, Zombie is a fun idea, but there simply isn’t enough depth. It very much feels like a flash game, and with such fierce competition on Nintendo’s hybrid console, along with the fact that the game is obtainable for a much cheaper price on other platforms, this particular version is hard to recommend.