If you weren’t already pulling your hair out at the roots from all the undead nonsense in gaming as of the past… forever, grab the Rogaine, because Three Dead Zed from Gentleman Squid Studio is yet another welcome addition to the ever popular zombie genre that’s sure to have you bald, ballistic, and breaking your Xbox 360 controller… and that’s a good thing!
The addicting action/puzzle-platformer takes place in a research facility where various undead species are being tested to create “the perfect soldier”. Obviously, you’ve heard that plot before, but stay with me here. This platformer comes with a twist. You control a zombie that exists in three different forms (hence the title). The “normal” zombie form is capable of small leaps, climbing ladders, and operating switches, along with eviscerating employees and eating their brains. The quick and nimble zombie form doesn’t attack, but jumps high and far, with the ability to stick to the walls (think Toad from X-Men). The female tank zombie form more than makes up for her lack of speed and agility by being able to lift large boxes, being invulnerable to poison gas, and by literally pounding everything in sight.
Much like similar platformers Giana Girls (Black Forest Games) and Zack Zero (Crocodile Entertainment), it’s up to the player to use each form interchangeably in order to successfully navigate from one part of each heavily-guarded and booby trapped level to the other. A kitten wearing a tin-foil hat is waiting to signal the exit of each level… yeah, I don’t get it either. Apparently, these cats need to be rescued, and once you find one and knock its little tin-foil hat off, that’s completion of the level. Afterwards, you’ll be presented with stats including your level completion time, secrets that you’ve found, and how many times you died.
And believe me: you will die – a lot.
As light-hearted and humorous as it is, Three Dead Zed is no joke, which is honestly the sign of a good platformer. If it makes you work for it, it’s worth it, and the host of spinning razor blades, laser beams, pneumatic walls that squash you like a bug, trigger happy cops, and crazy swat team members will all have you restarting levels multiple times to get past them. You’re only given three brains as health, and must slaughter employees and eat their cerebral matter to maintain this meter. Once your three brains are destroyed, you’re dead… again… like, *re*-dead. Save points will help to ease the pain of death a bit, but be aware that there is only one real way to clear the level. I made the mistake of moving a box using the tank zombie and inadvertently blocked myself in, causing me to have to restart the level from the very beginning.
All these traps, fleeing employees, and gun-wielding officers are all drawn in a very cartoony 2D style that’s very neat and clean; truly bringing each level to life. The soundtrack leaves a lot to be desired, but honestly, such is the case with most platformers. They can’t all have the sublime score of Super Mario Bros, and once you’re intent on solving the puzzle of each level, the music quickly gets drowned out by your exacerbated screams as you die yet again.
The humor and art style alone are reasons enough to buy this game. Three Dead Zed is a great throwback to classic platformers with a nice modern look and feel. It’s easy to pick up, hard to put down, and ridiculously funny. And it’s on sale for Halloween for the even lower price of $2.99 (50% off)! This year, save the candy for yourself, grab a copy of Three Dead Zed, and eat your coworkers alive.