Punchbowl City is set to be the city of the future in 1959, opening it’s gates to show the world a place where technology has made everything better, but unbeknownst to the city’s residents it’s been built over the grave of a man that was murdered years ago, and he’s comes back with vengeance on his mind and a hunger for brains in his stomach.
You have to love the ideas the people of 1950’s America held about the future, ray guns in every home, jetpacks for every child, and democracy for every country, or possibly a nuclear scorched planet where only the irradiated spawn of cockroaches roamed the Earth trying to find meaning behind the burnt Soviet and American flags littering their various territories. I always imagined they would have had an interesting culture, the cockroach people. Like the American cockroach people would have had white cockroach picket fences, little cockroach dogs, and thousands of adorable cockroach children running around the yard practicing cockroach cowboys and cockroach Indians while the Soviet cockroaches would have had lots of cockroach vodka and cockroach misery. Would the Soviet cockroaches have won the race to put the first cockroach in space by not caring how many cockroaches died in the process, or would the American cockroaches have beaten them with good old American cockroach ingenuity? Would there have been a Cuban cockroach missile crisis? Would there have been a little cockroach David Hasselhoff singing as the Berlin Wall came down, all while a grizzled old Cockroach Regan told Cockroach Gorbachev to tear the wall down? These are the things that keep me up at night. Well, that and do the future race of cockroach people have cockroach zombies? I can’t answer that question, but I’m going to say yes, yes there are cockroach zombies in the future, cockroach zombies that fondly remember their older brothers that died out in the great, pointless war of 20 Something Something. Somewhere out there in a distant future, insectoid zombies stalk other insectoids through the night, chewing on the unlucky living cockroach that comes too close, or maybe it’s squids that take over, that could be cool, or maybe bears, zombie bears would be the most awesome thing ever. Well, whatever future species that takes over after mankind has had its run, this zombie salutes your undead. Now, on to the human variety of zombie.
In Stubbs the Zombie you’ll play as the titular zombie Stubbs, a traveling salesman that was killed almost two decades prior to the start of the game, murdered because of the woman he loved, a woman who loved him right back, Maggie. Years after his death, Maggie’s son Andrew began construction of what was supposed to be the city of the future, Punchbowl. A city where everything is supposed to be the epitome of perfect 1950’s life, just with a little future spin. A high tech monorail runs around the city, limitless, clean energy powers everything, scientists spend their days coming up with ray guns and jetpacks and all sorts of future tech, and robots patrol the city to make sure things run smoothly. Everything seems to have been thought of, everything but who might have been buried underneath. At the city’s unveiling ceremony, Punchbowl is having a big celebration where Andrew and his mother open the city up to the world, and when Maggie appears to welcome all the newcomers to this new supposed utopia, an undead Stubbs hears her voice and comes crawling out of his unmarked grave at the center of Punchbowl, intent on reigniting her love for him. Standing in his way are an army of robots, policemen, scientist, and military personal, but Stubbs won’t give up quickly, and he’s not above creating an army of zombies to help him overrun Punchbowl if it means getting Maggie back. The city of the future is about to meet a zombie from the past, and they aren’t going to be happy with the results.
Stubbs the Zombie instantly became my favorite zombie game when I played it years back, beating out my previous favorite Zombies Ate My Neighbors, but it’d been a while since I’d played it, having sold my original XBOX and all the games that went with it years back. I’m going to say I sold it for drugs instead of the 25th Anniversary Optimus Prime figure I really sold it for since the former sounds more hardcore, but it was a really cool figure, came with Megatron transformed into a gun and everything. Anyways, my XBOX got sold along with the games and so Stubbs the Zombie went the way of the Dodo had the Dodo been sold to a Gamestop back before that place started ripping people off. I would eventually get a 360 and begin another game collection, but Stubbs would not be among them. Then, not too long ago, I came across it on XBOX Live and knew I had to download it. That was about a year ago. I downloaded it, got all excited, and then never played the damn thing like I wanted. Life happened and I kind of forgot I had downloaded it despite my previous excitement. Then, while going through my collection of downloaded games looking for the zombie themed ones for The Year of the Undead since I’ve got a bad habit of downloading a game and promptly forgetting about it, I came across Stubbs the Zombie, immediately becoming excited about the prospect of playing as my favorite zombie, favorite besides myself anyways. I was a little worried that nostalgia might have hyped up the game in my head a bit too much, that maybe it wasn’t as good as I remembered, but just seemed that way at the time. Time and memory have a way of making things better than they actually were sometimes. Thankfully that was not the case here, Stubbs the Zombie was just as good as I remember, if not a little better. It’s not an emotionally deep game that will take you thirty hours to beat and explore the existential crisis that is being a zombie, but an immensely fun game that lets you whittle away a few hours having an entertaining time creating a small zombie army and comes complete with a lot of, sometimes crude, humor.
The main draw is of course the act of playing as a zombie instead of trying to kill them. As Stubbs you are able to zombify any living player in the game, some easier than others, by taking a bite out of their brain. Civilians are the easiest to turn, simply walk up to them, press Y, and watch as the blood flies when Stubbs starts eating their brains. They’ll drop to the ground for a bit before reanimating and joining your quest to destroy Punchbowl and get your girl. Others will require you to smack them around for a bit before they are weak enough to turn, these include police officers, scientists, hillbilly militia members, and even the military. On top of being harder to turn, they’re also better able to defend themselves by coming at you armed. The police are the most common of the armed group and also the easiest next to civilians to turn as they come equipped with only a pistol that doesn’t deal too much damage and has a slow rate of fire. The scientists aren’t too hard either, but they have the most whimsical weapons, attacking you with a ray gun that doesn’t hurt Stubbs much but fires quickly, and a kind of laser that pushes you away from the attacker, making it harder to get close to them. The hillbillies run the gamut of easy to extremely difficult, coming in four groups, a single round rifle group that take forever to load, giving you plenty of time to get at them before they can shoot you, a shotgun group that do an incredible amount of damage and push you back at the same time, forcing you to either sneak up or somehow get behind them, a machine gun group that are impossible to come straight at, mowing you down quickly if you try, and a large, chainsaw wielding group that can take you down in only a couple of hits and can take an incredible amount of damage to finally stop. Lastly there are the military, which, on their own, aren’t too hard to turn into more zombies for your own army but come equipped with a wide variety of weapons in which to get you before you can turn them including a machine gun, a sniper rifle, and a rocket launcher. Considering how slow Stubbs moves, you’ll have to use your environment, your zombie army, and your small arsenal of weapons if you expect to survive.
That’s right, Stubbs isn’t so helpless even without other zombies around him. He has four different weapons at his disposal, a noxious gas, an exploding spleen, a bowling ball head, and a removable hand. The gas is your first weapon, essentially a zombie fart made up of the gases building inside of you that will stun any living humans around you, giving you a few extra seconds to turn some of the humans caught in the cloud. Next is your exploding spleen, rip it out of your guts and chuck it at the enemy like a grenade, controlling when and where it blows up. Any humans that die in the blast will come back as members of your zombie army, and you can have up to three exploding spleens on you at any given time. You can also bowl your head at enemies as well, ripping it off your body and rolling it toward groups of the living, controlling where it rolls until it gets to where you’d like it to be and then exploding it. Lastly, and my favorite weapon in your zombie arsenal, is your removable hand. Once ripped off, you will control your dismembered appendage to crawl over the floor, up walls, and across ceilings until you find the perfect host. Command the hand to grab onto a human’s skull, and you’re now able to control that human, preferably one with a weapon you can use to your advantage, might I suggest going after the guy with the rocket launcher, up until that person is brought down by the gun fire of those around him. Of course nothing comes for free, in order to use these abilities you are going to need to charge them by eating the living, which has the dual purpose of letting you grow your army and filling your weapons up.
You’ll have to suspend disbelief just a bit considering you’re somehow growing all your organs, limbs, and your head back over and over again, but the addition of these weapons added a bit of strategy to the game, as did how you used your zombie horde. You can’t control the zombies you create, all you can do is call them over to you should they wander too far out, or have them jump inside vehicles with you. Yes, there are vehicles you can use as well, a dirt lobber that lobs, well, dirt, a jeep that can run people over, and even a freaking tank. You have to really think about how you’re going to use all your zombies in later levels since Stubbs isn’t very strong himself and doesn’t move very fast, making him very vulnerable to mass attacks by the living. One or two of them aren’t much of a problem, but when groups of them start ganging up on you, a direct assault isn’t always the best idea. Instead you’ll have to think about just how you’re going to use the weapons at your disposal and how best to utilize the zombies you create, create too few at a time and you might not have enough zombies to draw the living’s gun fire, create too many all at once and you might not have enough zombies later on in the level. Same goes with the weapons for the most part, you need to use them when the time is best and make sure you don’t run out at a critical moment, though thankfully they refill easily enough so you don’t have to be too stingy with using them. You’re best friend in later levels is going to be your detachable arm. When faced with too much firepower, you can possess the person with the biggest gun, or rocket launcher, and use their weapon against the people attacking you, taking as many of them down as you can before they’re able to end your rampage. Being able to send your hand up walls lets you take out some of the hidden shooters as well. It was beyond amusing using your hand to turn the living against each other, and creating zombies never got boring, as watching humanity flee your undead minions was always smile inducing. Not that using your head as a bowling ball wasn’t entertaining, in fact, all of your weapons were entertaining and strangely more fun than I would have expected. Who knew using your organs as explosive devises could be so amusing?
The story is enjoyable and fun, sometimes to a silly extent, but never the less fun. Stubbs’ quest to get back the woman he love went to some strange places, but they were always interesting to say the least. I loved that it never got serious, but always stayed true to its simple formula of create zombies, move forward, and create more zombies. Sure, sometimes it’s nice to play the engrossing game that sucks you into a fantastic story, but sometimes it’s nice to just have a fun diversion with some quirky gameplay and humorous fun. In Stubbs the Zombie you’ll compete in a dance off against a crazy general, stop mad scientists in shielded bubbles, face a crazy family of hillbillies intent on making sure you don’t get any further, go against the full might of the United States Army, and even contaminate the local water supply by peeing in it. I enjoyed Stubbs the Zombie as much now as I did ten years ago. Are the graphics slightly dated compared to graphics today? Sure, but it’s actually aged fairly well all things considered. Its 1950’s stylistic design still looked good, and the last gen graphics weren’t terrible looking by a long shot. This is a must play for any zombie fan.
The Undead Review
Developed By: Wideload
Release Year: 2005
Platforms:XBOX, XBOX 360, Microsoft Windows
Rotten Heads: Four Heads Out of Five