This wave-based zombie shooter is so lacking in content and creativity that not only is its £8-£9 price tag unable to withstand scrutiny, but we also began to question its very existence.
That asking price – roughly double that of Sometimes You’s previous games – gets you an alarmingly bareboned tower defence shooter, featuring one playable character (a bland Lara Croft clone), a single circular arena set inside what’s presumably a tomb, and no online/MP modes to speak of.
As for presentation, there’s nothing in the way of cut-scenes or backstory. Not a deal breaker, but some explanation as to why the female lead has riled up the undead wouldn’t have gone amiss.
We may have been able to live with the lack of content if the core gameplay was fun and engaging, but it simply isn’t. It is at least structurally sound, if beyond familiar. Starting with a knife and a pistol, you take down waves of zombies to earn cash – with reaching wave 30 being the ultimate goal.
Once a wave has been completed a passageway to a concealed armoury opens, where you can purchase new weapons, barricades, turrets and zombie churning grinders, as well as upgrade health/defence stats and improve the effectiveness of your arsenal.
Defences and traps can be placed anywhere on the map. Unlike some wave/horde shooters, there’s no nagging time limit between waves. A good thing too as the trek to the upgrade store is considerably time-consuming alone. Incidentally, the upgrade dispenser – decorated by a glowing ominous skull – is the only example of creative flair. The rest of the experience is so visually formulaic and bland that it could easily be mistaken as a Steam asset flip.
It is the lethargic pace that outright kills the few things Blood Waves does get right. This isn’t a shooter where the enemies come thick and fast, satisfyingly exploding into a shower of gore. Quite the opposite, in fact. The shambling undead trickles out the catacombs at a rate of two or three at a time, shuffling towards your defences in hope of tearing them down.
Things don’t kick up a notch until wave five – which due to the slow pace can take a good 10-15 minutes to reach – and because there are no checkpoints or retries, you are forced to endure the irksomely slow waves every time.
More problems soon arise. From wave five onwards special zombies start to appear; the kind that can destroy your turrets and other contraptions in one fell swoop, putting an end to your plans and ruining all sense of progression. It’s very easy to overlook special zombies appearing on the battlefield, and so a momentary lapse of concentration can set you back to square one.
Adding to the frustration here, the defences aren’t cheap. A wave’s bounty is usually just enough to buy one or two turrets, and maybe a barricade and a few ammo clips. The larger, more gruesome, defences require you to save up your dough for numerous waves, putting them out of reach until investing a good 20-30 minutes of play. The same goes for the trio of power weapons – a sniper rifle, rocket launcher, and a mini-gun. A rocket launcher with one measly round, no less.
It’s equally Scrooge-like with its upgrades – one upgrade point per wave, and it isn’t long until upgrades start to cost multiple points. This is an experience that rarely feels rewarding, always making you believe the odds against your favour, and that the next wave could be your last.
We can both appreciate and get behind the fact that there is a learning curve (update points are doled out so sparingly that you are pretty much forced to mull over which to buy), but the general level of difficulty is off-putting, which in turn makes it rather joyless to play. Coupled with a painfully apparent lack of innovation, Blood Waves is a flat-liner.