The undead certainly get everywhere these days. In Zombie Panic in Wonderland (ZPiW), they’re even invading your favourite stories from your childhood. From the name of the game you’d be forgiven for innocently thinking that the theme here would be loosely based on the Wonderland adventures of Alice by Lewis Caroll. But you’d be wrong and this is the first sign that ZPiW is a slightly schizophrenic affair. There’s no white rabbit, Mad Hatter, no Tweedle Dum nor Tweedle Dee. In fact there’s not so much as a sniff of the traditional Wonderland setting. Instead Akaoni’s game takes the themes of The Wizard of Oz and Snow White and twists them to its own end. Baffled by this? Frankly, we were too…
Regardless of the contradiction between the title and settings, the game lets the player choose between one of two initial characters (or play co-operatively with a friend) as they adventure into Wonderland, only to find most of the population missing and hoards of hungry zombies in their place. The story that unfolds in between stages is told by storyboard visuals that successfully ape the Anime style the developers were aiming for. Revolving around some `scented dwarfs` and amorous zombies (no really, we aren’t making this up) the player must blast their way through the stages to find out just causes the undead uprising.
What follows is nine stages of nonstop shooting in the style of ancient gaming titles like Cabal. While that degree of brevity might cause you to wince, it soon becomes apparent that it’s a wise decision, since the gameplay severely limits the longevity of a title like this. The player can move from side to side but that’s it, and the emphasis is on just blasting everything that heads towards you (as well as destroying the environment to trigger explosions or gain extra ammo). Let the zombies get too close and they’ll start munching on you and draining your health until you slice yourself free. Once a certain number of enemies are dispatched the stage moves on, with every third one consisting of a drawn out boss fight.
ZPiW’s gameplay consis of little more than pointing at the zombies and hammering the fire button, occasionally switching between the additional weapons of the mini gun and flamethrower, and it’s the rigidity of this gameplay that ultimately scuppers any enjoyment of the game. Even with just nine levels it’s debatable that all but the most enamoured of players will be able to stomach the high level of repetition the game demands to reach its end. The charm and style does carry it some way (witness the little touches like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz skipping merrily off down the Yellow Brick Road), but even this can’t compete with the waves of frustration that will wash over you if you manage to die at the end of a level and have to do it all again. Things aren’t helped by the fact that alongside the games confusion with its title and content, there’s also a host of baffling design decisions. These range from the utter gibberish spouted by the first boss in its introductory storyboard, to the complete overuse of vibration on the Remote that leaves it buzzing so vigorously in your hand that you’ll fear your carpals will rupture. These sorts of issues make the game feel a little amateurish, scratching away the sheen given to it by the style and underlying ideas (most of which are sound in principal).
Zombie Panic in Wonderland isn’t a game which will cause the player to look down their nose in disgust, but rather make them cock their head to one side in a display of inquisitive bemusement. For the majority of gamers not taken with the game straight away, they are unlikely to find themselves being persuaded further in either. Ultimately the problems with ZPiW make it difficult to recommend, which is disappointing as the developers had the potential to deliver a far more rewarding experience, if oddball design decisions hadn’t got in their way. As it stands the player is left with the feeling that the only “wonder” in this “Wonderland” is why you’ve spent any Wii Points on it in the first place.