Stubbs the Zombie

Stubbs the Zombie

Written by Charles Husemann on 1/25/2006 for Xbox  

Zombie games are nothing new, gamers have been wasting zombies en masse for years. Piling them up like so much undead cork wood.  Why do we do it though?  Zombies are simple creatures, all they want is a little hunk of flesh and some brains to get by…OK, so that is asking a lot but do we really understand the Zombie?  Don’t they deserve more than the business end of a boomstick?  That’s the question that Stubbs the Zombie poses. 

The game has you playing Ed Stubblefield, a traveling salesman who was murdered and buried in a remote Pennsylvania field during the great depressing.  Twenty six years later he is woken up from his eternal slumber and find out that the field he was buried in is now Punchbowl PA a 1950’s technological utopia built but millionaire, Andrew Monday,  Stubbs must now figure out who killed him in the first place as well as why he is no longer providing sustenance to worms, Along the way you’ll get to destroy the technology 1950’s utopia of Punchbowl and make most of their citizens members of the AAUP (American Association of Undead People).

Stubbs the Zombie was developed by the fine (and slightly  twisted) folks at Wideload Games.  Wideload was founded by a several ex-Bungie employees who wanted to so something that wasn’t quite as SPARTAN as their last game.  The games does utilize an updated version of the Halo engine but there are enough differences that you won’t feel like you’re playing an undead version of Master Chief..

The first thing you’ll notice when you fire the game up is the excellent sound track.  Wideload got several modern day bands (like the Flaming Lipps and Death Cab For Cuite) to re-make 1950’s classics like “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “Earth Angel” and the result is excellent.  I actually ended up buying a copy of the soundtrack for my Mom for Christmas (which raised a few eyebrows but she’s digging the music).  This was a pretty cool idea as the updated tracks really add a lot of ambiance to the game.

The game starts up with you rising from your grave and then shambling around Punchbowl learning the basics of being a zombie.  As a zombie you are on the strict George Romero diet where you require five to ten helpings of brains to survive.  As most people aren’t going to give them up without a fight you have to learn the art of combat.  Your basic attack is the hit someone with your arms, stunning them so you can begin to chomp on their brains.  Stubbs also has some other interesting skills that will help you get your daily allowance of brain stems.  The first is massive flatulence which will stun enemies nearby.  The second is the kidney grenade which can be flung to take out multiple enemies at a time.  Stubbs can detach his head and throw it which allows him to scout out areas ahead of him as well as take out enemies from a distance by blowing it up.  The final weapon in Stubbs repertoire is the detachable hand which he can use to possess enemies.  This is helpful for taking over the bodies of the local law enforcement and using their guns to take out enemies

What really sets Stubbs apart from a lot of the other games I’ve played recently is the ambiance in the game.  Wideload really nailed down the look and feel of the game.  The entire game is seen through a sepia tone like glaze and the art direction in the game is perfect.  Punchbowl really does feel like a 1950’s utopian city, from the robots that inhabit the city to the music to various technologies of the future that are around the game.  Wideload also did a nice job with the load screens where a group of zombines moan in the background with the groans reaching a crescendo as the level is loaded. 

Graphically the game looks great, probably a little better than Halo 2 but not by too much.  There are a lot of nice graphical touches (Stubbs has suffered a bit of rot while he was taking his dirt nap and you can see through sections of him) and the haze over the screen adds a nice touch to the game.  Animations in the game are excellent and smooth.  Wideload did an excellent job of coming up with the perfect movements for Stubbs.  From this standard shamble to the shamble sprint Stubbs looks and move exactly as you would expect him to.

Game play is a bit on the slow side.  While Stubbs can pick up the pace if he runs in one direction for a period of time most of the game is spent in second gear.  This can be frustrating at times when you are getting picked off at a distance and you have used all your long range weapons and you don’t have any other zombies to help you out. 

Another great thing about the game is the sense of humor that Wideload imbued into the game.  From the dialog in the game to all the 1950’s chic through out the game you’d be hard pressed to make it through any of the levels without a few guffaws and there are actually some genuinely funny moments in the game.  Sure there are a few moments that fall a little flat (including a dance off that kind of comes out of no where) but you’ll have a hard time not cracking a grin while you play the game.

The real negative to the game is that the game is painfully short.  If you really explore the entire game you’ll still complete the game in well under ten hours.  There is a co-op mode which allows you to play through the game in split screen mode but once you’re completed the game there isn’t a lot to be gained by going back through the game unless you need a good laugh.

Normally I would recommend just renting a game that is this short but Stubbs the Zombie is one of those rare games that every gamer should have in their collection. I say this because it’s a solid fun game and the folks at Wideload deserve your ducats so they can continue to develop new and innovative games.

While a bit on the short side, Stubbs is an example of the innovation we need to see more of in the gaming industry. It’s not a perfect game but it is certainly one of the funniest, entertaining games to come out in the last year or two.

Rating: 8.1 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

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About Author

Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom.   I have been a Microsoft Xbox MVP since 2009.
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