Zombie Derby: Pixel Survival is the latest entry in the Zombie Derby series – a series that began life as a mobile title before coming to PC and now consoles. This third entry in the franchise retains the series’ signature gameplay while, rather radically, changing up its visuals and streamlining the mobile mechanics for a better console experience.
The premise is (un)dead simple. The zombie apocalypse has come and you’re just trying to survive while crossing an unnamed country. Of course, that means having to kill tons of zombies via vehicular zombiecide.
Zombie Derby: Pixel Survival‘s gameplay is really as simple as the premise. The game plays from a side-scrolling 2D perspective, putting you behind the wheel of various 2-ton metal death machines, as you race across stages while running down zombies, avoiding obstacles, and just trying not to blow up in the process.
Each level is designed to be played multiple times before you master it, with a variety of cars from school buses to ice cream trucks serving as your ride. These vehicles start as underpowered hunks of metal that struggle to get past 20mph, but each run rewards you with the scrap you need to upgrade and trick out your ride to eventually make it to the end of the level.
Each level is meant to be played with a specific car, but you can always use a ride you’ve upgraded fully previously to try and make it through to the end – though that becomes a bit of an uphill battle. Sadly, it can feel like a grind for scrap at times – no doubt a result of its mobile heritage.
The undead and the obstacles slowly chew away at your vehicle’s durability as you run them over or smash through things. You have to pay attention to your car’s “health” bar as you ride, choosing what to run over and take damage, or what to shoot and clear a path. Ammo is in scarce supply and your nitro gauge can deplete fairly quickly, so figuring out what to use and when to use it is paramount to success.
Levels are a seesaw of dips, straights, hills, and gaps that need to be cleared. While you only ever really need to focus on holding down the accelerator, there’s enough arcade-like handling that allows for some light stunt work. You can perform a roll or angle the front and back of the car to either shoot obstacles in the air or knock crates into zombies for combo kills.
Levels do have some simple objectives beyond generating undead road kill(?) – such as killing birds or ensuring you waste every zombie. Beyond the main campaign, there are also time-limited events that allow you to compete against other players’ ghosts in Halloween-themed levels or another in which you have to roll your car as much as you can before the level ends. Each of these has player leader boards and the game constantly checks your stats against other players during the main campaign.
Mechanically, that’s all there is to Zombie Derby: Pixel Survival. It’s as simple as can be and that simplicity is its strength.
It feels like a game that belongs in an arcade, where you’d pop your loose change in just to get that little bit further. It’s very much a pick-up-and-play experience that, while designed for short bursts, will also leave you with that “just one more run” feeling.
Visually, the game ditches the semi-realistic 2D artwork in favour of brightly coloured, 3D-pixel visuals. There’s a blocky look to everything that really works well and certainly doesn’t tax the hardware it’s running on, even with three visual settings from low to high. Additionally, there are some nice visual changes to your vehicles as you upgrade them – a nice touch.
Overall, Zombie Derby: Pixel Survival isn’t a particularly challenging or brain-taxing game, and that is to its benefit. With the nice and chunky visual design, satisfying sound effects as zombies pop when you run ‘em over, and the arcade-like pick-up-and-play gameplay loop, it’s a great way to pass the time in short bursts.
Zombie Derby: Pixel Survival (Xbox Series) ReviewZombie Derby: Pixel Survival (Xbox Series) Review
- Arcade pick-up-and-play feel
- Nice, chunky pixel visuals
- Mobile design elements are still apparent in the grind-heavy gameplay