Zombie Panic in Wonderland is a quirky game from Spanish developer Akaoni, which offers a new take on how to deal with zombie infestation. Instead of looking at it from the perspective of survival horror, it instead decides to go all guns blazing, all while displaying a wonderfully charming art-style inside an adorable world.
The game focuses on an overarching story, while paying close attention to different character in each of the game's three segments. It initially starts off in a rural Japanese town inside Wonderland, but quickly goes more into the realms of fantasy. Both Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz, and Snow White appear in the plot alongside their respective worlds. Random, yes, but it certainly doesn't detract from the experience, especially when looking at how the story, which is extremely basic, is displayed.
Momotaro, the initial protagonist arrives home, only to find that it's entirely deserted. He's then set upon by a group of zombies, leaving him no choice but to pull out his trusty machinegun and start blasting. He then follows a trail and meets up with Dorothy and together they start to investigate how the zombie infestation started. There are brief cutscenes before each of the nine levels, but they do very little other than serve as a brief introduction. Then again, this type of game really isn't played because of an in-depth narrative.
The aim of the game is to destroy as many zombies as possible. Players take control of a character, who is armed with a machinegun with infinite ammo. They are then confronted by waves of zombies and other interesting enemies, which slowly amble towards them, or throw objects. To counter this, players can walk in one dimension along the base of the screen, and use a dodge move, all while they're directing where the pain is going to be inflicted.
The majority of the enemies can be shot in different points of their anatomy, and obviously headshots are the most effective way of bringing down enemies - they offer the most points too. The variety of enemies is actually pretty impressive though - they range from the generic zombie, to sumo zombies and even Robin Hood imitation zombies. There are also huge trees, skeletons and crows. Each enemy adds something new to the gameplay, as players attempt to take down the horde, while attempting to stay alive themselves.Alongside the basic machinegun, players also have access to some more powerful weapons, although their ammo is limited. There's a more powerful assault rifle, and a flamethrower and ammo for these can be picked up by killing enemies, or by destroying the scenery in a level. It's worth pointing out here that the vast majority of the scenery is actually destructible, and watching levels completely change in their appearance as things progress is fun. There's a time limit on normal levels though, so there's no time for sight seeing.
Boss encounters in the game offer a slightly different experience, but it's a strange one. They seemingly get easier as the game progresses, which is definitely odd. The later bosses are actually quite boring too, as they have limited moves and it ends up just being a repetitive cycle of rinse and repeat. It's a shame the fun of the first boss couldn't be carried over, as it was both challenging and interesting to square off against. There's no time limit for bosses either, which is handy.
The game is displayed in a wonderful fashion, which is fitting due to its setting. Seeing Snow White whip out a machinegun just doesn't seem wrong at all and the brief cutscenes are well drawn and presented. The in-game art direction is equally appealing, as the zombies have a more "cute" appearance, as opposed to trying to be scary and intimidating. The music is pretty decent, although it can get a bit monotonous after a while. Perhaps if there had been more music featured in the game this problem could have been avoided.
Despite being a relatively short game, there's actually a reasonable amount of replay value. The story mode can be played again at a harder difficulty, and it's also possible to replay any level, plus an extra one, at any point due to the arcade mode. Co-op is also possible, and leaderboards are present even if they are a bit confusing. They just display some scores, but don't really offer any information other than a position in the leaderboard and the score obtained. Players have no idea what level it was obtained on, or if scored co-op, which player achieved the score.
Zombie Panic in Wonderland is an interesting take on the generic zombie infestation scenario. Instead of trying to be all serious, it promotes a more entertaining and jovial style, which sees Snow White and Dorothy taking up arms to fight back the horde and uncover the source of the problem. Gameplay is interesting, and co-op is definitely fun, but there's something about it that stops it from being overly compelling and it ends up making the game an average experience.