It’s hard to look at the current zombie genre and not think about just how similar the market is to the subject matter: masses of simple, one-track bodies overwhelming the healthy survivors by sheer numbers alone with the sole purpose of robbing victims of their brains and wallets. Rarely does such a convenient analogy come to surface, but it truly feels as if zombie games themselves have fallen victim to the very plague they rant on about in their plots. Trapped Dead: Lockdown, an indie Zombie RPG developed by Bigmoon Studios, is just one of the many rotting corpses perpetuating this putrid parable by drawing out the genre’s interminable (living) death.
Welcome to Nowhere, U.S.A.
Set in a nameless, podunk town somewhere in America, Trapped Dead follows the stale adventures of five different playable characters. The Marine, Exorcist, Butcher, Marshal, and Assassin all offer varying motivations explaining their role in the plot, whether it be to rescue a spouse, stop a murderer, or assassinate a doctor. There are hints every now and then suggesting some sort of encompassing tie in, and while the developers may have had some grand chalkboard drawing of each character’s interconnecting story, the whole thing runs rather flat as players are forced to carry out the same missions regardless of who they chose to play as (which seems rather incongruous, since an assassin wouldn’t give you the time of day, much less steal a TV for you).
I Should Probably Work On Cardio Anyways…
The combat and movement system is spot on with Dead Island: Pandemic, and becomes tiresome just as quickly. Different weapons can be equipped to either hand, and though there may exist some form of strategy between mixing and matching ranged and hand-to-hand attacks, simply outrunning every type of zombie, healing, then sneaking in a few hits as they catch up is just as effective. Exploiting the zombie’s aversion to rapid ambulation absolutely ruins the combat experience, and certain parts of the game even allow you to run right past an entire horde of the undead (since they also can’t walk through a building’s front entrance), which begs the question of why I even bother carrying a weapon in the first place.
Where a typical RPG may offer side quests that players can complete for experience or loot, Trapped Dead decided such an opportunity shouldn’t be passed up at all, so you can expect to collect three crates of food and seven bits of broken twine just about every time you meet a new NPC. Escort missions are also peppered into the main storyline, though these are laughably the best part since each NPC is more than happy to either run past every zombie or bash their brains in (if they can be bothered). Apart from playing fetch and protect like some bullet-vested golden retriever, players can prepare themselves for hours of linear hacking and slashing, 1997 GTA-style driving, and not much else. The game does offer a four player co-op mode, but suffering with friends can only improve the overall experience to a limited extent.
Where Less is Less and More is Still Less
What Trapped Dead lacks in balanced combat and interesting gameplay, it feebly attempts to make up for in character variation. Unique skill trees are available for each of the five characters, and though there are plenty of powers and bonuses to choose from, the passive and active perks lack innovation or sense (I know I’m an assassin hunting zombies, but why the hell can my pistol now shoot fireballs?). Players can also assign experience points to factors such as strength, melee, or intelligence, though the difference in performance seems downright negligible.
Different types of weapons and armor are also found aplenty in the rotting world of Trapped Dead, and each rusty knife or gas mask comes with its own set of stats and decay rate. The active perks mentioned above can be mapped to each weapon currently equipped, though dealing with the inventory menu every time you want to switch weapons and re-equip perks is about as infuriating as actually playing the game, and is just as easily abandoned (until the weapon breaks and you’re forced to fist zombie rednecks to death).
Zombieland Community Theater
Trapped Dead‘s visuals, though somewhat anachronistic compared to today’s engine power, are perfect for this isometric style of play. While the blood splatters may reek of Tarantino’s influence, the rest of the environments, whether they be a deserted street or writhing graveyard, are nicely laid out. Some of the town maps even open up to offer a momentary reprieve from the linear tunnels and hallways, giving players a breath of putrid fresh air.
The game’s music seems to suffer a stroke every time a zombie comes within fighting distance, but the overall moaning and groaning of the whiny undead overpowers whatever tepid concerto Bigmoon Studios cooked up. The “professional voice actors,” which are touted as a main selling point on the game’s Steam page, all sound like the same handful of heavy smokers trying out different accents, and the actual discourse reads like it was written in crayon during a company luncheon. While I could ignore any of these aesthetic faux pas for a title that could otherwise support itself with actual gameplay, Trapped Dead: Lockdown lacks in every department, such to the point where there’s nothing to draw my attention away from the collection of negatives.
You can check out a bit of gameplay above or browse through some screenshots below!