We had the linear horrors tailor-made for loud YouTube playthroughs. We had the Battle Royale craze, with every franchise developing their fight-to-the-death arenas between 50+ players. Now, the new easy-to-replicate game that everyone wants to make is Vampire Survivors, a roguelike shoot ’em up in which the character attacks automatically. Its deceptive simplicity was complicated by diverse enemy variety, various playable characters each with their own skills and weapons, and an ever-growing list of weapons and items that were updated on an almost weekly basis for over a year.
Vampire Survivors appealed to gamers’ striatum and prefrontal cortex, just like gambling does, with the onslaught of bonuses, rewards, and numbers on the screen creating a truly addictive experience that can manipulated and weaponized. Thankfully, we are yet to find a clone of Vampire Survivors with predatory tendencies that exploit gambling addicts and are instead treated with a pretty solid, if painfully derivative, zombie variant with the aptly titled Yet Another Zombie Survivors.
Currently available in Early Access, developer Awesome Game Studios is no stranger to jumping on trends and crafting these self-aware clones (back in 2014 they released Yet Another Zombie Defense). While it lacks the charming 2D art style of Vampire Survivors or its extensive content built over a year, Zombie Survivors manages to recreate the gameplay loop that keeps players hooked for hours on end: choosing between one of six survivors (each with their own weapons and abilities), the goal is to survive for 20 minutes against bigger and badder waves of the undead.
The main difference with the 2022 smash-hit is the element of risk-reward: occasionally there is an SOS signal that spawns a new survivor on the map. It is up to the player to choose whether to liberate the survivor (getting an extra level and cash bonus) or to recruit them, which increases the character’s firepower and health but also their hitbox. This may help in momentarily defeating a nasty group of zombies, but it quickly becomes clear that more players increase the difficulty and the damage received. This difference alone makes Zombie Survivors thrilling in each new run, for there is no right or wrong choice.
It is early to determine whether Yet Another Zombie Survivors will come close to the heights of Vampire Survivors, as its current content of two maps (each with its own environmental damage and creatures) and six survivors are not enough to sustain more than a handful of hours of game time. The addition of more gameplay variants, multiplayer and new game modes will increase its replayability, and as it stands it is one of the better clones to come out recently, with the potential of distinguishing itself thanks to its recruitment mechanic and setting.