How many zombie survival games do you know that give you a ‘tactical’ view of each level, allowing you to see exactly what’s in every room before you step foot into it? None? Well, that’s probably true. Trapped Dead markets itself as “the first tactical zombie survival game!” Having played it for a bit, I’m confident that not only is Trapped Dead the first game to attempt such a take on this genre, it will also be the last. It really is shit.
My one problem with the idea of this tactical perspective is that it immediately sucks out any notion of horror from Trapped Dead. To be given minutes to prepare your plan of action against a smattering of the undead isn’t scary or fun and it slows the pace down to a level that just doesn’t fit with any zombie game (except Blight of the Immortals, perhaps), never mind horror. This error could be forgiven if the controls for this tactical interface were intuitive and responsive, but they’re not. The process of selecting weapons, moving around the levels, even opening and closing doors are long and arduous. Don’t even consider trying to trade weapons between your party members, either. Perhaps the greatest sin, though, is having to right click and drag to select multiple characters or enemies. Right click and drag?! Well, why don’t I just bind jump to F9 in all my other games from now on, that makes just as much bloody sense.
It’s a great shame that a game that held so much promise for me initially has fallen flat onto its undead buttocks. I was pleasantly surprised to see Trapped Dead presented as a graphic novel at first, and I’m a sucker for games that present themselves differently to the norm (see: Ongaku), but a game’s art style can only carry it so far before its weedy legs give way. Hardly any of the coolness of these storyboarded cutscenes is transferred to the core activities and storyline, which is fairly generic as far as zombie survival games go. Combat, in particular, is woefully boring and monotonous. By the time I’d reached the end of level two, the ‘click on enemy, hit enemy with baseball bat three times, watch enemy die’ routine had worn amazingly thin. It reminded me of why I’d quit WoW, as it’s an RPG-esque combat system of ‘target enemy and right click’. From the moment you start attacking you’re no longer a player, you’re a spectator. I did encounter one semi-dynamic moment where I had to shoot a fire extinguisher to have it explode next to a very slow moving, tank-like zombie. As easy as it sounds, it took me at least half a dozen attempts to kill him, due partly to the fact that the fire extinguisher doesn’t kill him, partly because of my ignorance and mostly because of the clunky controls.
And that’s the secret word of the day for Trapped Dead; clunky. Games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil give you a bit of clunkiness to add to the fear factor. Not too much clunkiness to take control away from you, but enough clunkiness to make you doubt your ability to survive in some circumstances. Those are good games, ones that would naturally be idolised by designers looking to emulate their successes. If Trapped Dead is trying to take similar design choices, it hasn’t done anything to add to the experience. Instead, everything just feels like it takes a few more clicks than it should, thus feeling immensely frustrating.
So many other little things about Trapped Dead don’t make sense either. If you get hit by a zombie you have a chance that you’ll start bleeding, which can be fixed by using a first-aid kit on yourself. However, there’s no way to use the first-aid kit to recover health, making it quite possibly the least useful first-aid kit I’ve found in a game. Furthermore, to change the direction your character faces, you can’t simply rotate the viewing circle, seen in the screenshots above and below, no no. You have to move to another position, then you can face the direction you desire. A disaster if you’re in a combat situation.
I hate Trapped Dead. A game has to do a lot of things wrong for me to hate it, but this has done more than enough. I got halfway through level three, died and the game crashed. I’ve had enough. There’s a multiplayer, apparently, but I’ve not tried it. I don’t want to try it unless it totally transforms pretty much every core mechanic of the game. Maybe then it’d be worth playing, but until that point, I don’t want to play with or against anyone in such an appalling mess of code. The only comfort I’ve taken from playing Trapped Dead is knowing that once I’ve written this, I’ll never have to play it again. Thank God.