Each month, the Indie Spotlight highlights a new game that exemplifies the creativity, cleverness, and beauty of today’s independent games market.
This month’s Indie Spotlight is:
Good Dog, Bad Zombie
One day, something bad happened to many hoomans. There was much sad. But something was wrong. Those hoomans stopped behaving like good boys. They were a mean pack. Many bad smells, no scritches. Attacked hoomans and doggos alike. Scared other hoomans away. These were the zombees.
Many days went by and things got worse. Hoomans became scared and hard to find. Being smart boys, the doggos found shelter in the giant play time yard, Central Bark. Kept zombees away from doggos. Made much safe, made good place. Except, hoomans didn’t know about safe place with good trees and much room for play time. Because we are smart and brave, and sometimes hoomans aren’t, we needed to go and guide them to a new happy place of much food and many sleeps…
Look, there isn’t a deep grasp of logic needed to understand why the game of Good Dog, Bad Zombie has merit. People love dogs and hate zombies. Dogs are loyal, brave, faithful companions who give love and affection to their owners with reckless abandon while asking for very little in return. They are protectors, companions, and friends. They are playful, entertaining, and have an almost instinctual capacity to uplift one’s spirits when you’re down. Dogs are amazing creatures and easily one of the best things humanity has ever created.
Zombies, by contrast, are pretty much the exact opposite. Zombies are former humans, a shambling display of death and decay. They are mindless creatures with no semblance of their former selves; walking husks who are difficult to kill and whose sole impulse is to seek out and destroy other living things. Particularly other humans – which often creates more zombies. Zombies are an abject lesson in what you could potentially get if you distilled humanity down its most basic, primal motivators: spread, consume, reproduce. They are a darkened mirror of ourselves that generate a fearful and visceral negative reaction. Zombies are everything dogs are not.
It is this juxtaposition you find at the heart of Good Dog, Bad Zombie, the latest tile by Make Big Things. In this lightweight cooperative game, players are a pack of doggos who have set up shelter in Central Bark, a safe space amid a post-apocalyptic part of the city. They have managed to do a decent job securing things by themselves, but realizing that life wouldn’t be as good without us humans, they decide to venture out into the city and herd as many humans back as possible. Your collective goal is to bring a certain number of humans back alive.
The catch (because of course there is), is that the zombie horde is attracted to the smell of humans and will slowly march on Central Bark for those juicy brains of ours. Therefore, time is not on your side. Moreover, anytime a human dies in your efforts to rescue them, or if a zombie successfully breaches the gates of the park, your pack becomes more feral. If the pack’s feral rate gets too high, it forgets what it’s like to have human friends and you lose.
Most of the mechanics of GDBZ are straightforward, if familiar even, with you taking turns spending energy cards to perform various doggo-related actions, including guiding humans and attacking zombies. There’s plenty of variance from card draws and a die roll determining where new zombies spawn. What brings this particular game to the Spotlight is a refreshing and different take on a very well-worn theme. Your choice of zombie-related survival games nowadays are legion, and many have a tendency to blend together. Good Dog, Bad Zombie subverts the typical vantage point of such games by having you play out the scenario through the eyes of a bunch of four-legged companions instead, providing a novel and entertaining take on a zombieland setting while still leaving much of the expected tension-filled fears intact. It’s a creative and clever take on the zombie trope, and any game capable of doing that is worth looking at.
And sure, the fact that this one also features some doggo friends certainly doesn’t hurt.
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