Playing Bloody Zombies put us in mind of another Switch eShop game that launched recently in Guns, Gore & Cannoli. Just like that game Bloody Zombies mixes old school side-scrolling action, cartoony yet hyper-violent graphics, waves of undead opponents and a smattering of broadly drawn national stereotypes.
Whereas Guns, Gore & Cannoli is an ode to Metal Slug and other classic shooters, however, Bloody Zombies tips its blood-stained hat to Final Fight and Streets of Rage. It's the kind of brawler that used to pack out arcades in the early '90s.
As the action edges its way to the right you can move your chosen character in all directions using the left stick. Executing a double flick to either side will set you dashing in that direction; Y and X handle your standard light and heavy melee attacks respectively, with various sequences of the two yielding a range of damaging combos.
You can also combine those attack buttons with the jump command (assigned to B) to initiate jumping kicks and punches, while A enables you to interact with switches and pick up items. As with any self-respecting beat-'em-up, there's nothing more satisfying than picking up a sword, shovel or iron bar and using it to wail on your opponents.
On the more subtle side of things, tapping ZL will make your character perform an evasive dodge in the direction you're holding. This is nigh-on essential if you want to survive the game's punishing boss battles, or even some of its tougher foot soldiers.
Those are the basics of combat, but there are also various special attacks you can initiate once you've collected the appropriate power-up. With that done, a quick movement combination followed by X will initiate a powerful move that eats into your limited energy bar.
There's an undeniable visceral thrill to Bloody Zombies. The game's moody post-apocalyptic London setting feels fresh despite its familiar zombie protagonists, and both justify the lashings of cartoon violence and free-flowing red stuff.
It's also nice to see a number of secret areas to uncover. Don't get us wrong, there aren't lots of secrets to found in every area, but finding a hidden stash of items and bonuses behind a breakable barrier provides a welcome diversion from the intense slog of combat.
Which unfortunately speaks to the general tone of the game. It feels an awful lot like hard work at times, with repeating waves of enemies that take a considerable beating before going down.
The action in Bloody Zombies feels somewhat sluggish, while unpredictable contact points often leave you flailing away at thin air because your character and the enemy are on slightly different 2D planes.
There's also no getting away from the fact that Bloody Zombies is a button masher in the classic sense of the term. Its cel-shaded graphics might make it look a lot sharper and more sophisticated than the arcade beat-'em-ups of old, but it's barely any smarter, and pummelling zombie heads soon becomes repetitive.
That's not helped by the fact that each of the four playable characters controls and moves identically. The animation and vocal lines might be different between lithe punk Rei, sharply dressed hipster Teller, hulking biker Mick and extreme sports type Eddie, but they essentially have the exact same roster of moves.
It's a particular shame in relation to local multiplayer. With everyone stomping around doing the same basic things with no scope for specialisation, it can all become a little rote and repetitive.
Still, local multiplayer remains the best way to play Bloody Zombies. We were pleasantly surprised to see that there are options for playing online, but games like this are always at their best when all participants are sat in the same room.
You'll need all the help you can get, in truth, because this game poses quite a challenge. Enemies aren't particularly smart, but they do pose a large threat in combination. They tend to attack in repeated waves of fours and fives, each chipping a little more from your health bar. With an old school lives limit it's tough to make progress, though you can restart from the beginning of the last level you reached.
How many times you'll actually wish to do that depends on your enthusiasm for old school brawlers and your appetite for attritional button-pounding combat. Even then, Bloody Zombies doesn't quite manage to live up to the same heights as its influences.
Bloody Zombies brings a fresh visual style and a couple of interesting touches to the classic scrolling beat-'em-up. Unfortunately it doesn't flourish where it matters most - the quality and scope of its combat.
There's still a fair amount of mindless fun to be had in local multiplayer, even if Bloody Zombies lacks the fluidity and variety to become a true regular on your co-op Switch game roster.