In a landscape of overly robust online strategy games, the relative simplicity of Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge might once have hurt it. Here, though it's a delightful change of pace that separates this otherwise fairly flawed game from the pack.
It’s not anything like Plants vs. Zombies. It’s not really League of Legends or Warcraft III either, though it does borrow a little bit from both. Instead, what we’ve got in Frima Studios’ PS3/Vita cross-platform follow-up to 2009’s underwhelming PSP original, is a game with simplified RTS mechanics that recognizes its place as a cheaply priced (or, if you have PS Plus, totally FREE) diversion that’s fun to play, but has no aspirations of taking the world by storm.
Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge is the absolutely barebones story of Tycoon and Brainhov, two Scientist Zombie-Lords fighting each other for dominion over the human race. There’s no real dialogue besides grunting gibberish, and all the eight-chapter single-player campaign does is teach you the mechanics and pad out the game with some fun novelty missions and a smattering of extra achievements for completionists. It leaves the game feeling somewhat tedious and under-developed, and some aspects of it, especially the controls, are a bit sloppy and unresponsive.
I did, however, enjoy the building-capturing mechanic quite a bit. The more buildings you control, the more powerful your ultimate Dead Rush attack becomes, sending an entire horde of extra zombies against your enemies.
Tycoon and Brainhov also have access to Monsters, which operate something like the heroes in Warcraft 3, allowing you to level them up with new abilities as you progress through battle. Unfortunately, the battle itself, which is centered around upgrading your units by capturing buildings, feels a lot more like leaving your squad near a group of enemies and hoping for the best. The weird camera controls give you a lot of options but are ultimately confusing and not very smooth, and because you’re able to respawn fallen units, the AI never feels challenging. In fact, besides a few parts made annoying by poor controls, most of the game is fairly easy, never requiring truly strategic thinking in order to win.
Graphically, the game looks pretty nice, though that comes with the caveat of it being compared only to other games in its price range. The style holds up on both PS Vita and PS3, and so being able to transfer your save file between the systems through the cloud is actually quite useful.
The soundtrack is also solid, with music that works despite being a tad forgettable, and a mix of sound effects and grunts that certainly creates a specific style for the game, even though it makes it a little hard to get involved in the story.
Far and away, though, Zombie Tycoon 2 truly excels in its multiplayer. While you can only play as one of two factions, and which one you pick doesn’t really matter, a degree of variety is achieved through the different Monsters you can choose from without feeling overwhelming. Here, your opponent is smart enough to pose a real threat, and I actually found this game to be a fun casual challenge for the few days I spent with it online.
Because of this alone, I’d say the game is worth a look, but with the game being free to PS Plus users at launch, the $10 commitment isn’t even in your way. You’ll get a week or two of good solid fun out of it, and you might even come back for the multiplayer every once in a while, too.