With the rise of affordable and quality indie games, there's a new slew of platformers for those partial to the genre. For one reason or another this aforementioned type has become a trend amongst these independent developers, resulting in a host of new platformers for the modern consumer to choose from. While in the end this is a good thing, the situation does demand that any independent platformer has to stand out from this crowd to be truly noticed or appreciated. So it is with this in mind in which Three Dead Zed is critiqued.
Like it or not Three Dead Zed exists in this market, so its attempts to differentiate itself are completely justified. It does this mainly through its core gameplay mechanic, and noticeable humor. When regarding the former it's important to note that its core idea has even been seen before. The idea of traversing a level with the ever present option of changing to another character with a specific set of skills has been seen in games like The Lost Vikings. You can choose between three types of zombies, a regular zombie who can climb ladders, an agile zombie who jumps higher/ generally faster, and a female brute, who can pick up heavy objects and kill enemies with more ease. This type of gameplay is most suited towards platforming puzzles, which could work in this game as it has in the past, if not for the incredibly specific designs attributed towards this mechanic.
Environments like these, while a good idea in relation with the zombies, just come off as dull in execution
The levels themselves don't really tax the brain as they do your patience. Since all three zombies can only do incredibly specific things it becomes more of a chore to traverse the small environments you're put in. Just getting from one spot to another can be an annoyance since it's only the simple things that these abilities apply to. Climbing up ladders for example is very tedious as only one zombie has the power to do it. This is easily solved by switching to another zombie quickly, but at the rate in which you have to switch just to get anywhere, you'll find yourself having to stop to change abilities constantly. This isn't a case of using logic to determine how to get somewhere, it's a case of having to stop yourself continuously to end up anywhere.
The same goes for the puzzles which fluctuate between incessantly dull and baffling. Sometimes you won't even realize you're doing a puzzle since it adds no challenge and isn't communicated as one, and sometimes you won't be given any tools to find out just what your goal even is. This leads to a lot of backtracking across drab levels as you try to find something you missed that may give you a clue. It really says something about a games design when you sometimes don't even know what the puzzle even is, let along how you should solve it. Puzzle design is something that's hard to critique but this reasoning works within the relation to the feeling upon beating a level. In games like Braid, the puzzles are hard, but are well telegraphed and displayed. When you beat a level in Braid there's a sense of achievement, but here, no matter how hard the puzzle may be, there's no such sense. The feeling of progressing in Three Dead Zed does not fit well with how a puzzle platformer should feel, and indeed how many other games should either. I wouldn't even say the game is designed well technically. Checkpoints are placed sloppily with no thought, with the rest of the game carrying on as you're set back to boot. Hit boxes are hard to detect, and sometimes hazards will just not work at all. It's honestly quite embarrassing as saws sometimes don't even kill you leaving a baffling sense that no one tested if all the objects do their job- which some do not.
There's respect to be found in the way in which Three Dead Zed tries to capture a personality and apply it to the game. Another thing that sets games apart from each other is a distinct tone, and the way which Three Dead Zed does this is through its humor. While humor is subjective though I found the elements used in Three Dead Zed to be incredibly tired and boring. All of the personality results from beloved internet cliches. The cats and cutesy representation of zombies, especially convey this. All of the humor feels like what an incredibly generic reddit user may find amusing, and ironically this results in the games grabs for personality feeling boring and seen before. Because if you've been on the internet long enough, you've probably have seen every joke Three Dead Zed might offer before.
A lot of the design will have you baffled at just what you're trying to do
There's a constant feeling of boredom throughout Three Dead Zed displayed mostly through its atmosphere and tone. The levels don't pop, and nothing about the world feels inviting in any aspect. The first set of levels for example are set in a grey office environment where everything looks the same. This could make for some funny juxtaposition with the threat of your zombie characters interrupting this stereotypical environment. But the boring music puts a stop to that before you can manage to see things liven up anyway. The music might just be the most lazy score heard in an indie game for a while. No tunes are distinctive, and you may have trouble remembering any music at all. Playing the game muted is actually a better choice as you are also spared the terrible voice acting, which sounds like the person speaking couldn't care about his role in any way. The voices heard have no emotion in them at all, and even though this is supposed to be a light-hearted game, that doesn't mean the voice acting has to be dull. A way to combat this could have been to employ a more over the top narration (or any emotion), but as it stands the main announcer just sounds bored- like these elements will make you.
THREE DEAD ZED VERDICT
Three Dead Zed just isn’t good enough. As mentioned earlier there are a ton of more expertly crafted platformers on the market, and you just do not need to put time and money into this boring and quite frankly, amateurishly developed title.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Though the backgrounds are drab, the main character animations have their charm and mesh well with the desired tone.