America in the 1950s is a great premise for a zombie story and if you have ever seen an old 50’s B-movie or watched a modern-day nod to the genre such as Shaun of the Dead, you will instantly recognise the premise for this human brain-munching zombie game. Taking control of cigarette smoking zombie Stubbs, the plan is simply to take down every civilian you come across, have a good old snack on their brains, possess them and make them scream for mercy, sweet mercy.
Punchbowl is the fictional city where the action takes place, a strange futuristic city where the civilian population are going about their daily lives frequenting the shopping malls and cinemas, and growing crops as part of their farming community, all the while minding their own business.
For a zombie like Stubbs this simply will not do at all. You start with a basic melee attack of scratching your potential victims and subsequently being able to eat their brains. But as you progress you will pick up four new abilities – you can throw your gut as a grenade to take out those a little too far away from your reach, squat and hit B to release a vicious fart to render people temporarily disabled, or rip off your own head and bowl it toward your targets so you can detonate it at the right moment. But the best and most unique aspect of the game is – the hand.
Those familiar with The Addams Family TV series will know of a hand that roamed around, called ‘Thing’. Stubbs has his own ‘thing’ that can be used when you have enough brain juice to release it. Tearing off your hand, the camera retains the third-person perspective. Be warned however, it can be a bit nauseating! Using the hand is vital when on the streets of the decimated and desolate Punchbowl as soldiers try to dig in for one last time. Set your hand free and possess a soldier to help you out and you then have the ability to shoot ‘colleagues’, but be aware that only a few shots need to hit back at you for you to return to being Stubbs again.
To break up the walking around, there are some vehicle sections to the game that include driving a tractor, a hovercraft, and an army jeep. These are decent fun but as is the case with much of this game, they are spoiled by what I can only describe as a strange decision when it comes to controlling them. Moving the right control stick and then using the left control stick to go in the desired direction is fiddly. You will eventually overcome this, but it is quite frustrating.
The music is fabulous, from the opening rousing classical number to tracks such as Mr Sandman. The incidental music is also perfect for the zombie world. The victims let out blood-curdling screams as they succumb to your bites and strikes, and when you have built up a decent-sized horde and numerous kills are taking place at once, the noise resonates quite nauseatingly. I wouldn’t fancy hearing it in the dark I can tell you! The voice acting is clear: “Don’t eat me!”, “Not the face!”, and “Mother!” being regular shrieks that sound like Homer Simpson has popped along for the party. Cut scenes efficiently add to the ambience of the action.
Graphically – like the victims – I am torn. The B-movie vibe is great, and I love the cut scenes but when it comes down to it everything is so drab and grey, that whilst that fits the aesthetic, on Nintendo Switch the darkness is too much of a strain for the eyes. In the dam sections for example there are times when it is almost impossible to see what is going on around you, leading me to adjust my TV’s contrast as I thought that must be the issue (but it wasn’t). In another section against the army, the darkness is really problematic, making the land mines littered around harder than necessary to see. Frustrating once more.
This is very much a case of the good, the bad and the ugly. Stubbs is a pretty cool dude and his ability to contaminate an entire water supply with his urine is an impressive effort. The bad is the fact that the game is so repetitive, and the ugly includes the rather grating screams of your victims. It’s a shame because there’s a really good game just fighting to get out. If only a zombie could possess it and make it better perhaps?
There are some undoubtedly amusing moments in Stubbs The Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse, but those moments are few and far between and quickly become as repetitive as every other aspect of the game, including the combat system.
The concept has a good start and I do feel some love for the character of Stubbs: his laboured waddle, and his total disregard for all of the civilians as he goes about his zombie deeds, but the game’s frustrating elements sadly spoil any chance of it being worth an overall recommendation. If you have a fondness for zombie games and classic 50s films, I don’t deny that you will find a few hours of fun here and the couch co-op is a nice addition to add a little longevity to proceedings but by the very end you will be screaming out loud just like the civilians: ‘My brain, my brain!’
Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse Review £14.89
Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse has some juvenile humour that can raise a smile but the repetitive combat, frustrating elements and bland graphics leave the player feeling like a zombie and looking for their own pulse.