Sunday, April 10, 2011

Woody Two-Legs: Attack of the Zombie Pirates Review

Woody Two-Legs: Attack of the Zombie Pirates, developed by Nitro Games and published by Paradox Interactive.
The Good: Unique approach, special weapons and item pickups, online high score list, $5
The Not So Good: Disorienting controls, little map variety, annoying boss battles
What say you? This casual action title adds naval flavor to traditional tower defense games: 6/8

This review also appears at The Wargamer

Universal truth: pirates are cool. Because of this fact, all games should include pirates. Or booty. Especially booty. Thankfully, the minds at Nitro Games, responsible for naval trading games East India Company and Commander: Conquest of the Americas, have taken it upon themselves to introduce copious amounts of booty in their latest title, Woody Two-Legs: Attack of the Zombie Pirates. While not quite an Age of Booty, the game features protagonist Woody Two-Legs protecting his precious booty from the zombie pirates, who are on the attack. This arcade action game takes queues from tower defense games and the controls typical of Age of Sail type simulations. Let’s shiver some timbers in search for more booty!

The presentation is what you would expect for a $5 game: passable. The game is populated with cartoony ships that have decent models, complete with fire to indicate partial damage. The ships, though, lack a lot of detail (especially Woody’s vessel), though the bosses do feature some. The explosions aren’t terribly impressive, but each of your cannon shots leaves a pleasing trail of smoke in their wake. The islands are pretty bland, as is the ocean upon which you sail, with rare or subtle animations that never feel like real locations. The graphics of Woody Two-Legs: Attack of the Zombie Pirates are clearly not at the same level as their previous naval efforts. As for the sound design, we get typical fare: appropriate effects for collecting new items and incoming enemy waves. The game does feature some powerful cannon explosions and jaunty pirate music, fitting for a game of this type. Overall, while Woody Two-Legs: Attack of the Zombie Pirates isn’t a graphical masterpiece, you can’t expect that for the low price.

Woody Two-Legs: Attack of the Zombie Pirates is kind of like a mobile tower defense game, where you must protect your gold by destroying incoming waves of zombie pirates. There are five levels in a linear “story,” but it’s really just five slightly different islands to guard. There are about fifteen waves of enemies in each level, and each level ends with a frustrating boss battle where you must constantly circle a large, overpowered foe. I felt that each level lasted about twice as long as necessary, as Woody Two-Legs: Attack of the Zombie Pirates would be much better in five-minute-long bites; this is further compounded by the inability to save your progress during a single level. There are a number of difficulty levels that throw more enemies at you, further increasing your score. The scores are important, as your success can be uploaded online and compared against others; this servers as a consolation prize for a lack of direct competitive play, and it works well enough to keep you motivated. There is no penalty for death, other than resetting the score multiplier bonus and giving the enemies a few additional seconds to siphon off your gold. Overall, Woody Two-Legs: Attack of the Zombie Pirates offers typical, average features.

The control scheme is typical for a naval title, as your cannons fire only from the sides of your ship. However, since you are firing relative to the position of your ship, the non-rotating camera takes some getting used to: if your ship is headed down the screen, pressing left will fire towards the right side of the screen (firing the port side cannons). This initial confusion really hindered my ability to play for a while; the problem could be alleviated by simply rotating your view along with the ship. You get five shots per load, though there is no on-screen indication of reloading progress. As you maneuver around the map using the WASD keys to move (luckily “W” and “S” control throttle and do not need to be constantly held down), you’ll need to position the enemy ships to your sides while avoiding theirs. Once an enemy is destroyed, they will drop an item, which will either be good, bad, or randomized. These include slowing down enemy ships, a score bonus, health, or more powerful weapons like Blue Balls (yes, there is an actual weapon called “blue balls”). You can also collect powerful special weapons like a net to catch opposing ships, large explosions, or frozen enemy ships. There is no minimap in Woody Two-Legs: Attack of the Zombie Pirates, so you must constantly patrol the waters looking for incoming vessels. Luckily (although it’s not very interesting), ships head straight towards the central island that contains the treasure, so simply circling around that goal seems to be a good enough strategy. There are a lot of enemies later in the levels, and the constant escalation of chaos make for an entertaining, if simple, game.

I feel there is definitely $5 worth of entertainment in Woody Two-Legs: Attack of the Zombie Pirates. The fusion of fast arcade gameplay, naval combat, and tower defense-like mechanics make for an interesting title. The game takes typical controls for a historical naval simulation (firing from the sides of the ship) and adds a frantic pace and lots of enemies to destroy. A fixed overhead display means confusion can result from deciding which side you want to fire from (as the camera view doesn’t rotate with your ship), but practice makes things a bit less perplexing. There are plenty of unique power-ups to collect from fallen enemies, and you must constantly search the waters for those waiting to snatch your precious booty. The five levels are very simple and there isn’t direct competitive play, but you can add your score to the online list and compare your results to other players that are a lot better than you. The pace is quick enough to keep the interest level high as you chase those high scores, and Woody Two-Legs: Attack of the Zombie Pirates delivers a solid arcade experience, especially for its low price.