No matter what your thoughts are on the open-world zombie survival game DayZ, there’s no denying its cultural importance. Ever since Bohemia Interactive first released the original ARMA 2 mod for PC users, there’s been a countless number of copycats and “spiritual successors” releasing on every platform under the sun. Its influence is still going on to this day; Valve’s PC gaming platform Steam is forever flooded with shovelware that poorly emulates the feeling of hopelessness that game manages to excuse. Now, Nintendo Switch has its own alternative.
Radiation City is more than “heavily inspired” by DayZ, it’s the off-brand version. If Bohemia’s original was a crunchy, delicious Pringle, what we have here would be the "Prongles" equivalent. It’s an apt comparison: just like how a Prongle is a dry, tasteless alternative of a Pringle, developer Atypical Games has somehow baked an even drier version of DayZ.
Atypical has improved upon the iconic survival title in at least one way; there’s at least some semblance of an overarching narrative here. Its beginning is basic; you’re placed inside the cockpit of a rickety aeroplane, high above the clouds of Pripyat. For no explained reason, you’re tasked with finding a missing journalist within the vast expanse of the irradiated city. All of this is told simply through visuals – your character takes a peek at a newspaper – and every other story beat is delivered through poorly-written emails strewn about the world, usually near a camp. Story here is not the focus, a blessing considering its quality; instead, the focus is on exploration.
As you explore, either on foot or by car, you’ll pop in and out of an endless number of repetitive copy-paste buildings in your search for better loot. Most of your findings will inevitably consist of the traditional survival game humdrum: clothing, food, crafting materials, basic melee weapons. Occasionally, you may be blessed with a firearm, but ammunition is scarce and letting off a round causes every enemy in a mile-wide radius to spring straight as you: their Mach-5 speed is almost as terrifying as their laughably rigid animations.
While you search frantically for items, you’ll inevitably pick up the most common discovery in the world of Radiation City: bugs. Just like its predecessor Radiation Island, Radiation City feels far from finished. Items disappear, enemies get trapped on the environment, you’ll get trapped on the environment – you get the idea. Sometimes sounds won’t work properly; sometimes, upon respawning, buildings won’t load in causing ranged enemies to insta-kill you on spawn. Weirdly, without even touching anything, the furniture will freak out and levitate in the air as soon as you get close. Technically, this game is a trainwreck.
It’s unsurprising to learn about Radiation City’s mobile origins. While fantastic titles certainly appear on both Android and iOS, open-world games of actual quality are few and far between. Unless you’re Rockstar Games with a mobile port of San Andreas or Gameloft with the Gangstar series, most open-world mobile titles are repetitive, asset-clones in copy-paste cities. As least Atypical Games’ effort is a lot better than some; it just feels bare minimum.
Outside of its bugs, there’s nothing really of note here. It shows its competency in the graphical department; as long as nothing is moving and you don’t look too close, it has an aura of something akin to a modern video game. As soon as you start moving, as soon as janky animations, horrendous pop-in and unstable framerates start rearing their ugly heads, everything falls apart.
It doesn’t help that, once again, moving from mobile to Switch has resulted in a considerable price hike on Nintendo’s platform. What was once £3.89 on Android is now £17.99 on Switch. For such an unfinished product, that’s a laughable ask.
Radiation City is shovelware, to put it bluntly. Within the entirety of its (admittedly large) open world, there isn’t a single original idea to be found. The ideas it copies from its contemporaries aren’t well implemented either. If you’re looking for an enjoyable open-world zombie game, look somewhere else. If you just want a thrilling undead experience, check out Resident Evil.