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June 2021

Dead Z Meat

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Developer: IsTom Games
Release Date: Oct. 15, 2020


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Switch Review - 'Dead Z Meat'

by Cody Medellin on Jan. 18, 2021 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

You may very well be the last person on Earth! Grab your gun and get blasting - these zombies are as vicious as they are silly.

Due to the proliferation of flat-screen panels combined and a lack of incentive to develop the technology to make light guns more viable, the light gun shooter genre is almost going extinct. Of the major platforms, the Nintendo Switch is keeping that genre on life support with the gyroscopes on its Joy-Cons, which create a faux Wii Remote scenario. That's what developer isTom Games is banking on with Dead Z Meat, a title that sounds fine on paper but didn't turn out so well.

The game has no formal story and a mobile interface, so the gameplay premise is simple enough. You start by selecting a level and then drop in with a first-person perspective. From here, you shoot at the zombies until your quota has been reached —and before they shamble toward you and drain your health. The scenario changes with different zombie types to blast, while some levels ask you to survive a horde after a specific amount of time or protect an antidote barrel from being destroyed. Some levels let you unlock different weapons that range from shotguns to rail guns, and the cash earned at the end of levels can upgrade all of those firearms in clip size, damage, and reload rate. Since the title is more arcade in nature, you'll be able to blast at red barrels to create large explosions and shoot at power-ups to refill your health, freeze zombies, or get armor.

As you might have guessed, Dead Z Meat is different from other zombie shooters since this is a light gun shooter. Using a singular Joy-Con, you point and shoot at on-screen zombies by moving a cursor over the target. It feels more involved than other light gun shooters in that you can switch between a primary weapon and secondary one on the fly instead of going into the level with only one gun. However, don't expect some of the other elements you'd see in other light gun shooters, like the ability to manual reload via a button or by shooting off-screen.

Of course, the fact that you're using a Joy-Con instead of a proper light gun means that the expected accuracy isn't there, which you'll notice in the mismatch between your cursor placement and your actual movements. The game reminds you about the reset button to re-center your aim, so the experience isn't too bad. However, it does mean that you have to be careful about which Joy-Con you're using, since you can accidentally use the left one and need to shut down your system if you want to exit the game. It also means that you can't use the game on a Switch Lite unless you have a spare Joy-Con synced up to it.

The primary concept of shooting zombies in a light gun game format should work fine, as seen in titles like the whole The House of the Dead series. That series worked because you were constantly on the move in an on-rails adventure. Dead Z Meat opts to be a shooting gallery experience, where you stay in one spot and shoot at zombies as they shuffle toward you. The game tries to gin up some excitement by having a combo meter to encourage you to make your shots, but the combo meter has a tiny grace period, and with the zombies appearing at a slow pace, you'll never really push that meter beyond single digits. The game also tries to add more to the scenario by letting you slightly shift your camera to the left or right, but all this does is cause zombies to appear on those sides and stay hidden if you don't constantly pan the camera. With a lack of modes and way too many levels, it isn't long before the experience loses its luster.

It also doesn't help that the various power-ups barely seem to work. The armor seems to place a metal overlay over your health meter because it takes the same number of hits to kill you. Both the freeze and bomb power-ups don't affect enemies unless you shoot those power-ups at the moment the zombies are practically over them, despite the graphics showing that the effects should impact practically the entire screen. a red barrel, on the other hand, doesn't display a blast radius, so it's a crapshoot about whether shooting it will make zombies explode or barely scratch them. Only the health pick-up seems to do what is expected.

The biggest issue with Dead Z Meat is that it is a solo-only affair. Name any light gun shooter, and there's a good chance that it featured multiplayer. A zombie shooter like this would've been a perfect fit for multiplayer, especially since the shooting gallery game practically screams for some sort of competitive co-op. With no multiplayer options, even in the form of a leaderboard, the game doesn't give players a reason to keep plowing through the levels.

At the very least, the presentation is fine if you can look past the repetitive backgrounds. The zombies appear grotesquely cartoonish and animate well enough, although their patterns repeat more often than the backgrounds. The special effects, like those from power-ups being shot, are decent enough, and the draw distance is good enough that zombies from far away actually march toward the screen instead of popping up out of thin air. The music is decent, and the sound effects are fine, but the announcer seems a little odd since his booming voice seems to appear more often when you complete mundane tasks, making one feel like this is a parody instead.

As a light gun shooter, Dead Z Meat is novel since the genre is so rare nowadays in the home console space, and players can overcome the finicky control scheme with some practice. The shooting gallery setup has so few variations that it can quickly grow old, while the lack of multiplayer seals the game's fate. If you have a remote interest in this title, you'll want to wait for a deep discount.

Score: 5.0/10

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