I have to recommend two very different games today.
The first, One Chance, is an experimental adventure game. You play a scientist who developed a cure for cancer. Unfortunately, the cure goes belly-up as it is discovered that the engineered cells destroy all living cells, not just cancer. You have six days. That’s the entire directive. Every decision you make impacts how the story ends up. Will you abandon your family to try and save the world? Spend your last few days in the company of your family and forget about work? What would be important to you in your last days of Earth?
The game is presented in a simplistic, pixelated style. You move the character with the left and right arrow keys and interact with pop-up text with the space bar. The music is appropriately simple and moody for the conceit of the game. The colors are muted and the characters are flat enough to make you put your own emotions in the story.
So what is the conceit of the game that leads to this recommendation? You can only play it once. There is no restart button. After your six days are gone, the game is over. If you try to go back to the site, you will see the final still of your character in his environment, frozen forever in time. Sure, there are ways to get around the ending if you want to explore other life paths, but that defeats the purpose. One Chance is a hyper-realistic life simulator placing the player in extraordinary circumstances and forcing him to make decisions in a game like he would in real life. It’s just such a well-executed concept that only takes a few minutes to play. It’s art, really.
The second, Zombie Trailer Park, is more of a game in the traditional sense. It is a linear “seize the castle” strategy game where you control a trailer park facing a zombie invasion. The line separating your little trailer park from the zombie-ridden metropolis is a single highway. You must build trailers (for more fighters), salvage yards (for more money), and other buildings to protect your land. As you purchase more buildings, you get more styles of fighters. What starts with just men with shovels quickly adds in gun-toting farmers, moonshine throwing bootleggers, and even preachers with the power to turn zombies against each other. You earn power-ups, like an angry mob or a corn harvester, that decimate the zombies and give you time to upgrade your facilities.
There are four levels of varying difficulty in the game. This may seem small, but the replayability is there. The difficulty curve is fair and challenging. It would be hard not to pass the first level, but by the fourth level, you will struggle to beat it. There are new zombies introduced each level. It may start with the slow-walking individuals, but it quickly progresses to mutants, banshees, giant zombies, and a zombie catapult. The zombies also gain strength with each level. A pair of shovel-walkers might beat up thirty zombies in the first level, but they’ll struggle against five zombies in the fourth level.
The style of the game is attractive but plain. It’s slightly above MSPaint-styled graphics with simple colors and tiny characters. The menus are clean and easy to use. The one flaw in the presentation is the music; it becomes very repetitive very fast. If there was a new song each level, it would probably work. By the time I reached the fourth level, I was clicking the mute button and cueing my own music up.
If you like real time strategy games or tower defense games, you’ll probably enjoy Zombie Trailer Park. If you enjoy the idea of taking down wave after wave of heartless, brain-munching zombies, you’ll probably love the game. If you’ll excuse me, I must beat the fourth level this time. I must. I’ve only tried 30 times before already.