Monday, September 28, 2009
A friend and I were talking about stuff in general, and we agreed that with only a few exceptions, you can add zombies to nearly anything fictional and improve upon it. Movies, for instance - how much cooler would Four Weddings and a Funeral be if there had been a zombie? Hilarity ensues! Or Rambo - man, that would have given ol' Sly Stallone something he could kill with no remorse (not that he seemed to have much remorse about the actual living people he killed). We didn't really think you could add zombies to something like Gran Torino (actual punk-ass gangsters, in this case, made better antagonists, though there are very few movies where the run-of-the-mill bad guy couldn't be replaced with a zombie. In fact, some of them might do better death scenes). But even classics like Reservoir Dogs or Fight Club could have zombies in them, even if it was just for a couple minutes, and be better movies.
The same applies to games. Slap some zombies into Railways of the World, and you've got a post-apocalyptic railroad contest that I would play any time you bring it out. Or, how cool would it be if you could get a couple zombie armies in RISK, and maybe be able to keep some of your opponent's dead soldiers and add them to your own ranks? I can't think of very many games that couldn't be made just a little more interesting with zombies, and apparently, Looney Labs felt the same way, because they took the classic-but-pointless-and-bizarre Fluxx, added zombies, and made a better game.
The basics are still the same - you try to get the keepers to win, and get rid of the creepers that stop you from winning. The rules change, and wacky stuff happens, and you never really have any idea if you're winning until you've won. So basically, it's just like Fluxx - but now it's SO much better. Because now the creepers are zombies, and there are tons of them, and the keepers are things like friends and chainsaws and lumber (because anyone who has ever seen a zombie movie knows that the first thing you have to do is barricade the windows. The second thing you have to do is not get laid, because the zombies always eat the stupid people who decide to get naked in the middle of a zombie apocalypse).
As I said in my review of Martian Fluxx, what Fluxx needs is a theme, and in this case, a zombie theme is perfect. With zombie creepers gathering around you, friends being eaten, and shotguns running low on ammunition, Zombie Fluxx does a pretty good job of making light of a situation in which everyone you know has been turned into mindless killers who want to gnaw on your brain.
(Total aside - are zombies picky about their food? I mean, say they finally get your skull cracked open to get to your brains, but then the brains fall onto the ground? Does Mom Zombie yell at her kids, 'Don't eat that brain, it's been on the ground!'? Does Dad Zombie get a three-second rule, the way I do with cookies that hit the linoleum? And if they leave the brains out on the counter, does Mom Zombie come in and yell at the kids? 'This stuff doesn't just grow on trees, you know! Your father works very hard to put brains on the table! Is it too much to ask that you put the brains back in the fridge when you're done making yourself a plate?')
The theme in this case is carried out very well through nearly everything in the game - you might be able to use the shotgun to eliminate your creepers, but you might also just end up sending them shuffling around to bother someone else. The goal might be to stock up on food (so you'll need sandwiches and donuts), or it might be to make a zombie baseball team (in which case you need nine zombies and a baseball bat). To be clear, this game is funny - I did not make up that zombie ball club. That's a goal. And there's the ending-to-nearly-every-zombie-movie-ever goal, in which the zombies overrun the humans and everyone dies. That's not as funny, but it's still awesome.
The actions are good, too. You'll find yourself destroying all the zombies in one fell swoop, calling the hordes over to yourself to hold 'em off, or running out of gas in the chainsaw. New rules have you groaning like a zombie when you draw a creeper, or you get to open up a can of whoop-ass and blast some zombies back to the grave. With only a few exceptions, everything in Zombie Fluxx serves to enforce the theme and make this game better than the original.
Now, in terms of comparison, we couldn't really figure out why, but we all had more fun with Martian Fluxx. I think part of that is the theme, and part is the fact that Martian Fluxx works a little better. Not that Zombie Fluxx doesn't work - it's as much fun as being locked in the mall with a horde of walking dead can be - but Martian Fluxx just seems to have ironed out most of the kinks and kept gameplay moving faster and more interesting. Plus in Martian Fluxx, you're the invading enemy, and that's wicked fun.
The games of Looney Labs continue to grow on me. Every time I try a new one, I like the company more. I sure am glad they didn't take too much offense at my review of Are You the Traitor, because Looney Labs is on the fast-track to becoming one of the most consistently impressive game companies I know. The games are light, fun, and occasionally clever, and if they keep up at this pace, they'll be making fun games for a long time to come.
Fast and light (because it's Fluxx)
Cool theme executed well
Not as good as Martian Fluxx, but still really fun
If you like games with zombies, then you have a soul. If you like zombies and Fluxx, then you should buy Zombie Fluxx:
Posted by Matt Drake at 7:52 PM