Being a tad absent-minded, I often forget the dates of special events in the calendar. I wake up on Easter morning, for example, completely oblivious to the importance of the day, and then feel intensely embarrassed and guilty when I see the chocolate eggs my husband has bought me, I having of course forgotten to get him anything. However, there is one day that I never forget. Halloween. That is because in the days and weeks running up to it I am continually reminded of its imminence. I am not talking here so much of the ever-more frequent knocks on the door from grubby kids demanding treats in return for not playing tricks (though that does help). No, I am referring to the tsunami of undead-inspired Flash games that flood the web in the weeks before 31 October.
Many of these games are of a pretty low quality - thrown together by the developer over a couple of days in an attempt to cash in on Halloween. But occasionally you will find gems like the game we are reviewing today: Zombie Trapper. I say it is a gem but, if you were to go by the storyline alone, you might think the game more of a dud. The plot, you see, may well appear fairly standard on the surface - your town in under attack from zombies and you, a lone policeman with an armoury of weapons, have to stop them at all costs - but on further study reveals some glaring issues. For a start, there is the holy altar that you must at all costs prevent the zombies from destroying.
Now, I have nothing against holy altars. I rather like them indeed. However, they belong in dungeon and dragon style games, not in a game where the protagonist is a policemen wearing a bullet-proof vest and and equipped with modern weapons. Having the policemen protecting a cowering group of citizens or even inmates of a prison would have made a lot more sense. I usually get very annoyed by such inconsistencies but I was able to forgive them in Zombie Trapper because the rest of the game is great fun and beautifully done, both in terms of graphics and game-play.
At its heart, Zombie Trapper is a defend-your-castle-style game where you have to beat off waves of attackers, upgrading your weapons as you go. There have been tons of great games created in this genre over the past few years (see our list of the 25 best), and anyone wanting to make a mark has to offer an original twist on the standard defend-your-castle game-play.
For examples of such twists, one can look to Potion Panic 2 (where you kill the attackers using potions you concoct yourself by mixing ingredients) or Trap Master (where you can destroy the treasure hunters attacking your lair either by clicking on them or by using a huge ugly monster to eat them). Zombie Trapper's twist is that in addition to projectile weapons like pistols and rifles, you can also wipe out the zombies using a variety of different traps. Some traps kill by burning the zombies, others by gassing them and so on. As you progress through the levels, it becomes ever more important to use your traps and research new ones because your standard weapons become increasingly ineffective.
To get this trap-based game-play mechanic to work, the game has had to make a significant change over standard defend-your-castle games. In most such games, the defender is locked into position (at the top of a castle, for example) and expected to carrying out all his shooting or archery from there. In Zombie Trapper, in contrast, the policeman has been set free. Much like in a platform game, he can wander anywhere he likes in the game world, leaping up on platforms to plant traps there, jumping down again to plant more traps. He can also run around picking up ammo, cash, health and other gifts that appear when zombies are killed.
The combination of platform, defend your castle and strategy game-play works really well. There is always something for you to do, whether it is planting a new trap (ensuring that it is the right one for the type of zombies that are attacking), searching for ammo and health or exploring the game world for the perfect place to trap the zombies. The game also comes with a between-level shop where you can upgrade your weapons, armour and traps. As you progress through the levels, you unlock new items, providing an incentive to play right through to the end.
In terms of difficulty, Zombie Trapper gets it pretty much spot on. Things start off dead simple. You can easily kill the zombies using nothing but your standard-issue pistol. Then, on later levels, another type of zombie appears that is immune to your pistol, so you have to start using traps to kill them. As you progress further, the number and types of zombies increase, and you soon find yourself in a frantic life and death battle to save yourself and the town. Every few levels you also get to fight zombie bosses.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Zombie Trapper is its graphics. The game's cartoony sprites are not only perfect for the genre but they are also beautifully done. The sprite for the policeman is particularly good. One would not expect anything less, given that the game was developed by game studio Funnaut, which was responsible for Wrap Attack (a cute christmas-themed platformer) and Arcuz - a spectacularly pretty RPG game that we placed at the top of our list of top online rpg games.
Zombie Trapper may not be the best game ever made but it features lush graphics, has interesting strategy aspects to its game-play and brings something fresh and new to the defend-your-castle genre. You can play the game here.