Online, Jun 2020
The witty title gives it away so no prizes for guessing the premise of this game – with a zombie apocalypse underway, deep in the frozen Ontario countryside lies a research station that might just contain what you need to find a cure and save humanity. Our gamemaster and avatar was the last survivor of a search party, who needed our help to get inside the lab and find the critical research. Although zombie-themed, this game is occasionally gruesome only in a mild way, and doesn’t particularly set out to scare.
Quite a few of the games I’ve tried via remote play have had fairly plain sets, so Common Zombie’s nice production values and atmospheric lighting was welcome. It also turned out to use a good level of technology, increasingly so as it went on, with some cool effects and equipment – this is a game that puts more emphasis on buttons and switches and panels than on padlock codes.
The game has an inventory system, provided as a simple webpage of images. On reaching a certain point, our host gave us a codeword to unlock the next page, and so on, such that at any given point we had a screen showing the current area and items of interest within it. This also included a top-down illustration of the room to show its layout, these were both attractive and useful. We had to be careful not to miss one of the codewords so as not to be left behind in the inventory system,
Unlike most similar systems, the inventory system didn’t always provide detailed close-ups of items and documents. My impression was that the images were intended to provide orientation but not fine detail, such that actually solving puzzles needed us to interact with the avatar and the actual room not just the online pictures.
A small gripe was that the camera seemed to often take a moment to focus on whatever we were looking at, giving a second or so of blurriness before resolving. I haven’t noticed the same thing happening elsewhere, so might be related to the light levels or the type of camera being used. I also got the impression that, while the puzzles all worked fine over a video feed, many of them would have been more fun to play in person, in a way that made me more conscious of not actually being there.
But that bit of FOMO reflects well on the game – it looked good and had some interesting puzzles, not to mention an array of chunky laboratory machinery. The room may not have been perfectly suited for remote play, but the venue ran it well. And with a pretty set, satisfying puzzles and a decent save-the-world story, it was easy to enjoy.