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Game in Focus - Topdown Zombie Shooter: Boxhead the Nightmare
Long time browser gamers should already be familiar with the Boxhead series of games by now. Over the past couple of years, the devs behind Boxhead have been very busy, churning several installments to the already addictive shooter. So how does this classic title stand up in an age of modern games, the advent of the Unity engine, and the ever-so-used zombie genre?
For those of you who are new to the gaming scene, or have simply not heard of the Boxhead series, here is the quick lowdown. Boxhead is a series of shooter games that use the “top down action shooter with upgrades” formula –and they do it pretty well. The games always look great and stylized, the blocky character designs for the players and the monsters have all become indicative of the series name. Boxhead has always been acclaimed for its frantic gameplay pace, inventive use of weapons, the application of usable barrels and turrets, smooth animations, and great hordes of zombies bent on trampling you over in a bloody mess.
Since the release of the first game, the series has continued to evolve. Slowly adding in new gameplay elements that allows people to enjoy the game more and at the same time, further increasing the challenge for those who have bored with the other vanilla shooters around. Boxhead the Nightmare is the latest addition to the series, providing players with an even more complex system than ever before and offers a pretty brutal grindfest for those who want to max out their player character.
Things New and Old Come Together
The great thing about games with rich histories is that they have already so much to offer to players, and the same applies to Boxhead. The devs are already more than all too familiar with gameplay balance, providing special abilities and weapons, and most importantly, providing a game that is both challenging to play and fun to experience at the same time. While they have been successful at this since the first games, Nightmare brings in the added concept of playing a continued character that the player will keep coming back to and constantly improving. The graphics are also a lot more detailed than ever, providing a nice visual feast for us as we shoot our way through a sea of the undead.
The old weapons are back, which means that if you have favorite guns from the older games, they are likely to be back – and mostly with the same performance as you would have expected. The turrets and barrels are also present, and new players are advised to study how they work to fully maximize their presence in the game. Overall, this game proves the old adage of not fixing what is not broke –at the same time, also proving that the more is indeed, merrier.
Regardless of which game mode you choose in Boxhead, the game itself does not change all that much in terms of how it is played. You use the keyboard to control the movement, reloading, and weapon selection while the mouse is used for aiming and shooting at weapons. It all sounds simple enough (and not to mention pretty common –as this is the standard control system for a wide majority of top-down shooter games), but what makes Boxhead the Nightmare unique is its long term gameplay. Sure, pretty much get the feel of the game quite easily just by playing it for a bit. But if you truly want to progress, you will need to invest time and energy into building up your character –think of it as an experience point grind in order to increase your character performance.
The start is enough, you go through a quick tutorial that explains the gameplay system (which you can easily skip if you already know what to do), then you select a stage to cause some zombie mayhem in. After that, you choose a character to play. This is where the uniqueness of Boxhead starts and where all the fun begins.
The Characters will allow you to determine what kinds of weaponry you want to bring into the field and how you want to play the game. Most of the characters are either homages of existing characters (like Darth Vader or Don Corleone), or they may be archetypes (the medic, the marine, etc). Each character has its own experience point bar and more importantly, custom own weapon sets. It is possible that a character would have a weapon or two that is unique to the character, so try to focus on choosing characters whose weapons arsenal are more to your liking. The good thing is, you can switch characters easily after every stage, so it all boils down to a bit of trial and error to figure out which one works for you the best.
Upgrades are achieved by buying items in the inventory screen. You get credits for this right at the start of the game and also by picking up the coins that the zombies drop. Be careful when spending though, as most upgrades can get expensive and not all will be available to you immediately. The game now features a time constraint when it comes to upgrades: after buying an upgrade, you have to wait a set amount of time until the upgrade is ready for use. Until then, you must play without the upgrade. You could choose to spend a bit of real life cash in order to speed up the process.
Speaking of which, Boxhead now makes use of real life currency that allows players to purchase special items that can be used to make the game easier. The great thing about this is that if you have the cash to spare and not muct time to invest, you could just opt to buy a few premium goodies and make things easier for yourself –at the same time, providing much needed financial support for the hard working developers. While many games often complain about issues with games that offer micro transactions –it actually works with boxhead. The reason for this is the lack of a competitive multiplayer mode. With no other players to make you feel bullied or out of place with their premium items (as with the case with some other micro-transaction games), it really does not matter who buys and who doesn't. In the end, it is the developer who makes a nice well earned mint out of us all.
Since there is no main plot to the game, nor is there any real arbitrary point to what you are doing with all those guns in the middle of a zombie outbreak, then the most we could gather about Boxhead is that the world is in shambles and it is up to you to take down as many of the undead as you can. It really is not much of a plot, but in a game like this, why bother to look –the real fun is when the zombies start streaming in.
And stream in they will, the Boxhead series has always been famous for the large swarms of zombies that spawn in the game and Nightmare is certainly no different (besides, with a title like Nightmare, it has to have large hordes). They are plenty and they look good. Despite being a flash game, the folks behind this title have put in a lot of time and effort to create nicely detailed cel-shaded graphics for all of us to enjoy. The enemies are uniquely designed, the animations are super-smooth (the animation frames leave little for skipping) and the object effects are just so fun to watch. This game is visual eye candy, and do not think that your hardware will pull it off without paying a bit of a price.
Which is why we would recommend playing this game on a pretty good machine; a netbook with 2GB of RAM works fine, but expect some slowdowns. If you truly want a smooth gaming experience, then you might want to fire up that desktop computer. And while you are at it, turn up those speakers as well, Boxhead’s action-riffic soundtrack deserves some quality eartime and the massive explosions you will build up in the game (when you chain barrels together –and we suggest that you do) are so satisfying to hear in full surround sound. As they always say, in a zombie apocalypse, you will find solace in the rhythmic beat of a firing mini-gun.
Boxhead the Nightmare is an all new step for the massive top down shooter series. It abandons the old play-as-you-are approache and goes for the more modern pay-up for some extras style. Fortunately for players with really tight budgets, there is enough in the game to progress and play through without missing on premium content. For those who have the leeway to be a little more supportive of the developers however, there are some really nice incentives to be had. In the end, the decision to spend rests on the player’s shoulders. As a game however, this is a definite must play title. Whether you are a fan of the zombie genre or are simply looking for a good, action-packed shooter that provides a long lasting experience, Boxhead the Nightmare has plenty to offer to all. The massive stages, sharp and responsive controls, challenging waves, excellent visuals, a huge selection of playable characters and an impressive arsenal of weapons await those of you who are willing to spend the time and energy that this game demands. We give this game a burning zombie’s