How To Survive is a zombie survival horror game from EKO Studios, who may be the same EKO Studios that brought us Garfield: Save Arlene, Woody Woodpecker: Escape from Buzz Buzzard Park, and the only game to ever bring me to tears, Strawberry Shortcake: The Sweet Dreams Game. How To Survive takes place on a zombie infested tropical island, just like Dead Island did, and is tonally similar but legally distinct from a zombie book that Max Brooks wrote.
In every sense then, How To Survive is not even remotely unique a concept. So bereft of original thought is this game about killing zombies that it’s almost enough to drive you to the conclusion that perhaps nobody should ever make a zombie game ever again and that maybe certain elements of the industry are simply creatively bankrupt.
Almost! But let’s pretend that games exist in a vacuum, because I’ve already decided to tell you about How To Survive. Probably because, despite appearances, it’s suitably odd.
You survive in this zombie archipelago by moving in one direction and aiming in another, in a fashion not at all dissimilar to a twin-stick shooter, except instead of a spaceship it’s a person and instead of other spaceships it’s zombies. Running backwards while swinging a big stick at the undead is an official strategy here, as described in the scraps of a pseudo-helpful ‘How To Survive’ guide littering the island, and so the net result is a game that feels more arcadey than survival horrory. Which is a very good thing, assuming you don’t mind playing with a pad.
Sufficiently smacked zombies will leak out experience points, which can be spent on better abilities. You can also craft weapons and tools by combining items. Digging about some clunky menu screens showed the total number of craftabes to be somewhere in the 50+ region, but the only one I discovered in my 20 minutes with the game was a chainsaw, which I could craft by combining a chain and a saw (and some petrol, I think). Other tools are probably less obvious.
You also need to do things like sleep, as even a single night’s missed kip will render your character sluggish and cranky. Day cycles into night automatically as you play, coaxing different breeds of zombie out of the darkness. Special light-averse zombies can be kept at bay using a lit torch or a flashlight, but your limited number of hands (two, two hands) restricts how combat effective you can be while grasping hold of a light source. Lights will expire over time too, so managing resources, batteries and fuel becomes either an irritating detail or an exciting logistics puzzle, depending on your outlook.
There are challenge modes as well as the basic story mode, and multiple players can join in games to hit zombies with sticks together. How To Survive is a rough looking, scrappy digital download, built on a shoestring budget with only a scarcely an original idea to speak of, but it’s weirdly endearing and occasionally surprising. The guy to my right was chased into a shed by a zombie elk. The guy to my left found a mission-giving parrot. I fell asleep on a beach and got eaten, which is less strange but still an unlikely way to die. The absurd thing is out next week, on October 10.
It’s probably at least as good as Woody Woodpecker: Escape From Buzz Buzzard Park.