Review: “Jungle Z” – Nintendo Switch (Festival of Dread special, repost)
First things first,* Jungle Z clearly takes place in a forest, not a jungle. Sure there are some banana trees thrown around for good measure, but it’s a forest.
At first glance, Jungle Z looks a bit like a modern take on Zombies Ate My Neighbors with a few RPG elements mixed in. Overhead perspective, a variety of weapons, undead enemies… but Jungle Z‘s gameplay is styled a bit more seriously, similar to a survival horror. The setting is simple: your entire camping party is wiped out by the sudden outbreak of the zombie apocalypse, and you are on your own to search, sneak, and survive the worst that Z-Day throws at you.
You can select either a nameless male or female character from the outset, and your backpack comes modestly pre-stocked with a few survival items as you embark on a search through a randomly generated environment for whatever the mission requires, whether it be batteries and an antenna to repair a radio, gasoline and keys for a getaway truck, and zombie outbreak research materials. As each “day” progresses, you will need water for thirst, food for hunger, first aid items for health, and of course weapons for fighting back the zombie hordes.
You can also find other survivors scattered across the
jungle forest, some of whom will trade items with you, while others will strike a deal to follow you and help you on your fight against the undead. You can even entice a canine sidekick to follow you if you give him enough food.
What makes Jungle Z stand out, however, is the tower defense mechanics which become key to surviving the many waves of undead who attack at night. You can create “shelters” from basic materials to create fences, traps, barricades, flamethrowers and auto-firing machine guns. You will absolutely need to find a decent amount of materials to erect an adequate shelter, as the ferocity and sheer number of zombies are nigh-unsurvivable without one, and if you die, it is indeed game over.
Once you survive three consecutive days, however, you’ll realize that Jungle Z isn’t just a survival game, it’s also a Roguelike. After each three-day period, you are rewarded with three skill points to boost your character’s abilities on a skill tree, which carry over to your next playthrough even if you die. And you will indeed die quite a bit at first as you build up your characters stats, which include health, speed, attack damage, shelter defense, thirst and hunger resistance, etc.
Your first few tries in Jungle Z will be frustrating, once you’ve powered up a bit, the experience becomes much more rewarding. In a few hours you’ll be killing zombies with ease and moving around the map like a pro.
Graphically, Jungle Z does look like a budget title, but it’s not ugly. The camera is fixed and there are a few fun touches thrown in for good measure, such as the bucket and traffic cone-wearing zombies which I have to imagine are nods to Plants Vs. Zombies. Occasionally the animations go wonky and the enemies are particularly dumb, sometimes getting hung up on pieces of the environment. These kind of flaws break immersion, but they don’t disrupt the game too much.
The sound in the game is standard fare, with mood-setting music that changes with each “stage” and a generic – but adequate – set of sound effects and zombie groans. It should be noted that the loading times are really long for a Switch title, particularly upon initial startup, which takes more than three minutes to generate and load the randomly generated map.
- If you can sneak by an enemy, it is usually worth doing so. Engaging in combat unnecessarily will often cost you precious time and break down your weapons.
- Build shelters near areas which are easily identified on the map. You don’t want to get lost trying to find a defensive position when the sun goes down.
- Invest some skill points into your running speed early. Traversing the map quickly and being able to outrun slower zombies is key to survival.
- Once you complete all the objectives for a stage, you are automatically advanced to the next stage. Be sure to break down your defense structures for their materials, otherwise you will lose these supplies.
If you are one of those suffering from “zombie fatigue,” then Jungle Z isn’t likely to appeal to you. However, if you are open to a zombie-themed Roguelike and you’re willing to put in a the time to learn the game’s mechanics and upgrade your character a bit, you’re likely to have quite a bit of fun with Jungle Z.
*Disclosure: A copy of Jungle Z for Nintendo Switch was provided to The Splintering by Rising Win Tech for the purpose of this post.