High Voltage Software’s Zombieland: Double Tap - Road Trip keeps alive the great video game tradition of absolutely terrible, overpriced movie tie-ins. With a campaign that clocks in at around about the two-hour mark, extremely basic twin-stick shooting action, bland graphics, inexplicably long loading times, rotten narrative segments that freeze the on-screen action at random points as you’re trying to play and the excruciating decision to send players right back to the very start of a level when they die, what we have here is a shambling, lazy experience that costs upwards of thirty pounds on Nintendo Switch and, quite frankly, barely warrants a review at all.
But review it we must! Set between the events of the first and recently-released second Zombieland movies, the game sees you take control of one of the four main characters from the franchise – Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita and Little Rock. All of these protagonists – apart from Abigail Breslin’s character – are voiced by replacement actors in dismal little banter segments that bookend each of the ten levels that see you travel from the West to East coast of a zombie hellscape America. Not that you really see any hellscape; the game instead throws you into the most banal and derivative environs imaginable, tasking you with stuff like shooting a load of portaloos until they blow up, stealing a single twinkie from a supermarket and – over the course of two of its ten levels – escorting the exact same grandmother character around her neighbourhood as extremely dull enemy AI tries (and fails) to present any kind of a meaningful challenge.
There is, in fact, practically zero challenge in this game on its default setting; the only time we perished was during a level set at a gas station where we had to hold down a button to retrieve fuel and were killed as we waited for a little bar to fill up and let us know we were done. This pitiful incident is how we discovered that, upon death, you return to the very start of the mission you’re currently playing – they run around ten-to-fifteen minutes apiece – and get to re-sit your way through faux-Woody Harrelson having the absolute anti-craic with faux-Jesse Eisenberg as faux-Emma Stone and actual Abigail Breslin throw in the odd excruciating cheesy line of dialogue.
In terms of gameplay, you’ll spend your time grabbing guns from the badly-textured trunks of cars, milling around bland environments doing menial jobs and shooting hapless undead enemies until you’re alerted that you’ve completed the necessary task, at which point you’ll be unceremoniously ripped from whatever you were doing and kicked back to an XP screen to allocate some points to your chosen character. These points do things like give you a bit more firepower (we didn’t notice a difference if we're honest) or beef up your character’s special move. Oh, and those special moves, by the way, are just bad; Woody Harrelson spins around the screen windmilling things because the developers clearly decided they'd given up by this point and were content to just throw it in there and not think about it.
Over the course of the game a handful of different zombie types are added to the mix in an attempt to conceal how terribly repetitive everything is, but the only ones we thought made any difference were the zippy little ninjas, simply because they were momentarily harder to hit as they approached. There’s also an exploding fat zombie, a clown and a vomiting lady zombie, but we can’t say we really noticed that they added any meaningful variety or tactical nuance to proceedings; they’re just more crap to shoot your limp guns at.
There are a bunch of boss encounters, each of which boils down to facing off against a larger zombie type whose distinguishing characteristic is that they’re slightly more of a bullet sponge – oh, and one of them is a chef that throws flames at you, the absolute standout moment in the game – but they still present pretty much zero challenge. These boss types – except for the chef – are then mixed into the general zombie populous but have their longer kill-times reduced so that they die in the same number of shots as the rest of the enemies. In other words, they are absolutely pointless beyond looking a bit different.
Alongside the campaign – which you can probably tell by now we weren’t particularly fans of – there's a four-player co-op and a horde mode, both of which we can’t imagine anyone being enamoured with for any particularly worthwhile length of time as even the ten-minute campaign levels were a struggle to get through. There’s just no energy or fun to be extracted from any aspect of the gameplay. Even the guns have zero feedback or feel to them; you can’t even reload when you want to, taking away the one little strategic bit of control you might have had: ensuring your mag was topped up in moments of downtime.
In terms of positives, well, it’s a top-down twin-stick shooter and mechanically works well enough that you could potentially just turn your brain off and blow through the whole thing without being troubled and, maybe as a completely free-to-play game on your phone, you might even think it was a pleasing enough distraction to pass a journey. This Switch version works fine in both handheld and docked (although blowing it all up to TV-size does the bland visuals absolutely no favours whatsoever) and we didn't experience any bugs on our playthrough. It also has characters from the movie in there – we’re really struggling – and, if you love Zombieland then you get to… spend time with people who you love, we guess?
Zombieland: Double Tap - Road Trip is everything you’ve come to expect from a lazy movie tie-in. Its gameplay is mechanically competent but it’s bland beyond belief, short, cynical and lazy. It has the most tenuous of links to the actual film it portrays and is ultimately a very basic twin-stick shooter with a tired-looking Zombieland skin tossed carelessly on top – it also costs far more money than it has any right to. If this was a free mobile game you might get an hour or two of braindead time-wasting out of it, but as an almost full price console release, it’s pretty much indefensible.