‘Infectonator 3: Apocalypse’ re-animates Flash gaming, but lacks humanity
Disclaimer: This review is of the PC version and was conducted on a PC with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, i7, 8GBs of RAM.
Flash gaming has a significant place in gaming history. Both indie games and mobile games owe a lot of their tropes and gameplay models to older Flash games. Angry Birds was inspired by Crush the Castle, for instance. However, since the slow death of Adobe Flash Player, many of those Flash developers have moved onto creating mobile games or smaller indie titles. Some of the biggest Flash games have even found revivals on the Steam platform, which is a joy to see. Epic Battle Fantasy IV, for example, is a fantastic and relatively successful game that stays true to the Flash originals, but adds enough to make it worth the full release. Similarly, Infectonator 3: Apocalypse keeps the essence of the original games alive, but in this situation, fails to really make itself noteworthy on a legitimate game platform.
Flash gameplay is brought back to life, but fails to be infectious
Infectonator is a series of Flash games that are the arcade-y equivalent to Plague Inc. The player is tasked to infect the entire world, turning the world population into friendly green zombies. Throughout the game, the player is able to do slight customization to the zombie’s stats, along with unlocking special, unique zombies that range from completely useless to hilariously overpowered. Using these zombie upgrades, the horde must combat humanity adapting to the zombie uprising, with SWAT teams and even an XCOM knock-off fighting back. Infectonator 3: Apocalypse is essentially the Flash original brought to life on Steam, for better and for worse.
The gameplay loop is fun, and watching the zombie horde take down progressively larger groups of people is satisfying. However, the game suffers from what I like to call the “Atlus difficulty curve.” Early on, the game is reasonably challenging, and about halfway through the game provides what feels like an unfair challenge. However, by the endgame, the overpowered nature of the unique zombies and support items make the game a complete joke. The zombie horde easily takes down everything the game throws at them, including all the boss enemies who fail to pose a significant challenge. The game seems to be designed for the player to fail at least once before getting a successful run, like a rogue-lite, but doesn’t provide the challenge for that to happen.
Overall, the gameplay certainly is nostalgic, and as someone who grew up on ArmorGames Flash games like Infectonator, it brought a smile to my face. Yet, after the halfway point, I realized I was playing just to finish the game, unfazed due to lack of challenge. Infectonator 3 doesn’t have any infectious gameplay that can compete with similarly priced indie rogue-lites like FTL: Faster than Light or Death Road to Canada. Even though it’s fun for a short while, it quickly becomes repetitive. Much like the Adobe Flash Player, it just hasn’t aged well.
Pixel-art and chiptune music that is good, but not special
Infectonator 3: Apocalypse has a nice art style that, again, is very nostalgic of Flash games. The small sprite work is very well done and well animated, and the large sprite work makes for an interesting contrast, but also looks nice. There’s also some more detailed 2D artwork, but is mostly reserved for the fake news reels, and mostly just recreates some very dated internet memes. The ending to the game is also rendered in that art style which, while it looks nice, doesn’t fit with the rest of the game.
The chiptune music is also very nice and nostalgic, and some tunes are even remakes from the original two Infectonators. Yet, no song stands out from the rest of the soundtrack. It all blends together into a nice chiptune soup. It’s okay, but doesn’t really have anything worth listening to. Throughout my playthrough, I mostly just had a stream or a YouTube video going on in the background while I half-focused on the game. It’s nice to listen to, but doesn’t do anything more than tickle some nostalgia for a small group of people.
Excessive misfirings of comedy and dated references plague the experience
Flash games, not bound by copyrights and trademarks, tended to steal a lot of jokes and characters from popular media. Most of the time it was parody, as opposed to blatant theft, and Infectonator was no different. One zombie type was literally a recolored Ronald McDonald, after all. Infectonator 3 seems to not have noticed time progressing since the heyday of Flash games, and makes a number of dated references that are more distracting than funny. The fact that “Justin Beaver” (styled after a young Justin Bieber) is the boss enemy of Canada, as opposed to more relevant pop culture icons, doesn’t make the game seem any fresher.
And, of course, there’s also a number of misfirings of comedy. Aside from the dated references, attempts at making relevant jokes tend to just get political. While that’s not a deal breaker and a number of other games make similar political jokes, the ones in Infectonator 3 just seem kind of like pandering to me. Political humor is not a bad thing, but there should be more effort into the jokes than simply copying what was popular on Reddit a year ago. The gameplay itself is not hurt by the lame jokes, but the experience as a whole would be better with fewer of these jokes and reference. As a side note, I don’t remember a single Walking Dead reference in my entire playthrough, even though I unlocked every zombie and completed the whole game. Although, considering how season eight turned out, maybe that’s for the best.
Featured Image from GOG
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