Imagine, if you will, my horror at discovering that only three Xbox Live Indie games released this week... and then realising that two of them are zombie games. I screamed and wailed. I ground my teeth into a fine silky powder. I cried and peed.
And then, perversely, imagine my surprise when I played them... only to discover that they're both pretty good. If you're willing to look past the hackneyed source material, we've got two worthy winners this week. So let's do this in alphabetical order.
Red Tie Miner Zombie
If you're an avid follower of Xbox Live Indie Games, you may have already heard of Red Tie Miner. Maximinus' original dig 'em up released at the tail end of 2011, and tasked players with excavating their way out of an enormous sprawling mine while collecting mineral resources to spend on equipment and upgrades. It was a fun little game that played a little like an attractive cross between Dig Dug and Minecraft, but was somewhat devoid of threat or purpose beyond simple escape.
The obvious solution, therefore, would be to throw in a bunch of flesh-eating zombies to hound your every move. And that's exactly what they did.
Red Tie Miner's raw gameplay is very much intact. Playing as the eponymous crimson cravat-sporting professional mineral extraction specialist (okay, Red Tie Miner is easier to say), you'll freely excavate your way through a staggeringly enormous underground cavern that bristles with precious gems to chisel out, massive rooms to explore and a surprisingly effective physics simulation that makes for some interesting water and gravity interactions. Your pickaxe will only get you so far, however, and accruing enough raw resources allows you to splurge on a variety of gadgets to make your life easier.
A jetpack allows you to fly, while a parachute stops you from splattering across the scenery. Bombs excavate enormous caverns. A bazooka is, erm, a bazooka. And, pleasingly, one bizarre pickup allows you to rotate the entire game world by 90 degrees; resetting gravity and causing widespread chaos.
And you'll need that bazooka. Zombies liberally festoon the scenery, with the ability to jump over gaps and close distance with surprising pace. Running, digging and flying away tends to be the order of the day, adding a fantastic sense of urgency to the proceedings. What's more, being killed by a zombie actually turns your corpse into one of their number - potentially leading to entire hordes of red tie-wearing zombies appearing in difficult sections. Respawning only removes your items - not your cash - so death is never a serious setback. You'll easily be able to spend hours just exploring and experimenting to your heart's content, a momentous achievement for a 68p game.
Red Tie Miner Zombie demonstrates that zombies can actually improve a gaming experience, all while delivering serious value and polished content. An absolute steal for 80 Points.
Get Trial/Buy: 80 Microsoft Points
Tower defence hybrids are all the rage these days, with the simplistic genre constantly undergoing revisions to make it more relevant, action-packed and immediate than ever before. At first glance, though Zombie Crossing appears to be a very traditional affair. Waves of zombies stagger through some slick 3D cities, and it's up to us to research and place a selection of static towers on rooftops to stem the tide, earn money and stop the invaders from destroying the last underground vestiges of civilisation.
It's hectic, looks great and manages to impress despite a fairly primitive GUI, but Zombie Crossing's major unique selling point is that you can instantly switch perspectives to a rooftop sniper high above the city. From this first person viewpoint, you can target and execute the shambling hordes in real time, allowing you to prioritise key threats and respond dynamically to zombies who manage to breach your cordon.
Zombie Crossing isn't perfect by any means. A steep difficulty curve after a few easy waves can annoy and confound - and the sound design is nothing to write home about. But the core experience is solid and exciting, and well worth a trial download at the very least.
Sadly, Zombie Crossing is not an undead-infected version of Animal Crossing. But it does happen to be a competent tower defence hybrid with a slick sniping element. Definitely the antidote to an unbelievably slow week.