Let's dial back the time a little bit to the hayday of a little site called Kongregate to the golden age of the flash game. Back when the internet was young and much of the current PC gaiming crowd was too young to afford the rigs we have now, it was the golden age of the flash game. A few stood out in this age: Fancy Pants, Bloons, and Burrito Bison are all relatively well known titles now that began in that humble crucible. Also in this class was a little game called Infectonator. The premise was simple: make zombies, kill people, improve your zombies so you could more effectively do the first two. I always thought it would be the equivalent of the friend that you see when you go back to your hometown and you hang out a bit and they're fun, but you know they aren't doing much.
My god was I wrong. It was more akin to a friend that you found went to New York for school, met his future wife Pandemic, then stayed with a well-paying job in the financial industry who then proceeds to give you a sincere invitation to come on his boat at some point.
The problem with games going full PC release after finding success as flash games is one simple question: Why buy these things when you can play them online for free? Well the answer to that question is that Infectonator 3: Apocalypse is a new game that has a distinct feel and mechanics from its predecessors. Though it takes a lot of mechanics and morbid humor that made the original two games fun, it adds a lot of content with new stages, more special zombies, and a world map and infection system that adds a heaping helping of Pandemic to the mix. Though the interface can be unintuitive and the game can feel like it runs a tad long, I left the experience being the overlord of all zombies on earth and feeling as though it was well-earned.
Infectonator 3: Apocalypse will release on Steam on May 10 at a price that has not yet been released.
There's no story. There are zombies, you're the one engineering the plague. I like to pretend I'm a misanthropic scientist engineering it all because all humanity must die. You can't really pretend you're the disease beause you can use equipment like land mines and grenades and I've never heard had a cold that could do that. I was threatened by a flu bug with a knife once, but that's very different.
Despite this, the game has the same grotequely hilarious personality it always has. Before you begin your swath of destruction in each level, the people walk around talking about how much they love living and snapping selfies. Everyone just seems so self-absorbed and obnoxious in an exaggerated parody of humanity it is almost a relief when you reduce the population to a horde of shambling clown corpses dropping poisoned burgers. There's also more subtle touches of humor, like the little blurbs of news crawling across the bottom of the news screen after each stage. While not all of the jokes and tidbits of humor hit bulls eyes, and everyone in the anti-reference joke brigade should steer clear or risk a stroke. Still, i would say Infectonator 3 got a few chuckles out of me.
Rather than walking you through all of the basics, I'll just link you to the previous installment here. Play it a bit if you want the basics. For those without the time to play a game right now, you gain money from infecting and killing people, then you use that money to upgrade your disease and your zombies. You also have support equipment that you can use, like grenades to handle pesky military officers and people in corners, land mines to cover entrances and exits, and goop that can slow and passively kill humans. That's the game in a nutshell, play it if you need more information, I'll be focusing more on what this third installment does differently from its predecessors.
An actual zombie plague
Something that I never knew bugged me about the original Infectonator is how if this is a disease spreading and making zombies, why do I have to do all the work? Why doesn't it spread naturally? Well, Infectonator 3 answers this by showing off another game many of us enjoyed in those old days of flash games, Pandemic. As you gradually work your way across the map, areas you've already visited passively gain more panic and give you more zombies in the style of those disease simulator games. To add tothe pressure, there's now a ticking clock, as humanity is actively trying to cure your virus so you need to take an active role in dismantling the areas where they dare oppose you. This escalates the stakes beyond that of a flash game, which is good because if this is to be a game that people pay money for there needs to be some sort of stakes.
There is also worldwide panic, which could either benefit or be a detriment to the player. Perhaps they'll nuke a five countries, destroying them completely in their futile attempts to contain your zombies, or perhaps the panic will cause hazmat and military to be scattered throughout the world, forcing you to be more tactical with your resources because your precious children could be gunned down immediately if you place them wrong, which is a good organic way to keep difficulty up. Just when you think it's all too easy, all of the citizens of a country will start packing heat and gunning down whoever so much says the word "brains." It isn't always necessarily a smooth ramp, it more lurches up after you've done so much, but I never went "this is too easy" without almost immediately eating my own words.
There are tons more stages to go through in this third installment. Each continent is made up with a few countries you have to to work through, and you need to do those a few times to actually destroy them. As you break them down more and more the area panic will go up and make the areas more dificult, much like the worldwide panic. It does much the same thing, but on a smaller scale. The vast amount of stages is impressive, but I will say that I noticed a few particular levels being the exact same and it did reach a point where it felt like a bit of a grind. There's just a lot to do and a lot of it winds up being more and more of the same, especially once you find the strategy that works for you.
There are even fun and legitimately difficult boss fights for each level. They aren't manditory, but if you kill the boss the passive rate of infection doubles in the continent. The boss fights all behave differently and the're fun little obvious parodies of actual figures in pop culture. Yeah, this really isn't your game if you hate reference jokes, but I enjoy them well enough if done well and I think these are done well.
And if you haven't had enough of the game after you've beaten it, then there's still more to unlock! After each stage you get mutation points which can permanently alter your future playthroughs by doing things like improving zombie stats, giving your initial virus click 4 more directions, or even making your explosives deal damage to your zombies as well as the humans. I love any game with such a short play time altering future play throughs, it really helps to add replayability in any game and this is no exceptions.
Birds fly, fish swim, indy games have crafting systems. Yeah yeah, it happens. I mentioned before that you gain zombies passively based on where you've invaded. In the crafting system, you chop up the zombies to make bigger, badder zombies. This isn't bad in concept but the interface for this is super unintuitive. Though all the like zombies are close together, it still looks like a big jumbled mess and that makes it difficult to navigate. You can also level up your zombies, which does actually seem to make a difference in their effectiveness. I did like the vast zombie variety and the need to earn them, but a better menu would have really helped sell that point of the game.
Graphics and audio
The graphics for Infectonator are a nice retro style yet still distinct enough to not be confused. Maybe it's the carnage, but they really remind me of the original Rampage, but in a god way. Each of the zombies has their own distinct look and feel, and the humans walking around have tremendous personality despite the fact that there aren't a ton of distinct designs to work with. I get the sense that even though this is a full PC release, Toge Productions didn't have much more to work with than they had for the original flash games, but all i ask in that case is that a developer does the best with what they have, and they certainly do here. It isn't a spectacle, but the arcade graphics do lend themselves to a kind of retro camp that I find refreshing.
The music is also a ton of fun. I love the calm almost RPG-town-esque music playing as you deliberate where to strike first in an area, then it suddenly gets really intense and hardcore as soon as you start your infection. I'll put these in the same boat as the graphics: not incredible, but they definitely add to the fun retro ambiance that I really hope was their intention.
As a fan of the Infectionator series, I was both excited and scared coming into this third installment. It would have been so easy to just release the same two games again with slightly better graphics or just lose sight of the original completely. Infectonator 3: Apocalypse succeeds where many have failed in this regard. The campy, morbid, B-movie charm remians strong, the core mechanics that made it a delight remain, and they add a few tried and true elements that make this a new experience distinct from its predecessors. The lack of any real story and the occasional grind could turn a lot of people off. It is a bit of a shallow experience when pitted up against strategy games, but seeing as it made a decidedly non-casual genre into a fun casual game, I think that at least merits a pat on the back. Whether you've infected the world before or this is your first apocalypse, Infectonator 3 is definitely the campy armageddon you've been looking for.
|+ Campy horror comedy vibe||-- Can feel like a grind|
|+ Intuitive controls||-- No real story|
|+ Huge zombie variety||-- Reference humor (if you care)|
|+ Higher stakes than the old games|