Pet simulators, like famous Japanese robotic dog AIBO, are really only enjoyable if players can’t own the actual pet. Once I got my own dog, Nintendogs immediately began to gather dust. When the imaginary pet in question is a bit more exotic, obviously the real life alternative is out of the question. A different take on the recent zombie trend, Pet Zombies doesn’t let players blast zombies, but raise them as the name would imply.
In the game’s world, apparently the zombie outbreak has been somewhat controlled, because zombies are openly for sale as pets. From the get-go, players will be able to select one of several zombie archetypes, ranging from jocks to scientists. Afterwards, players will be able to customize them, but most of the customization options are shallow, only allowing players to change their skin or clothing color. In the beginning, the variety in archetypes may be exciting, perhaps allowing players to live out fantasies of raising a fallen friend or torturing those high school enemies, but there also seems to be little differences between the zombies aside from the occasional gestures.
As with any other pet, zombies need food and entertainment. However, the way the game is designed doesn’t need players to actually care for their pets that much. There are two spectrums toward which players can take their zombies: nurture or torture. It sounds fun at first, especially given that most pet simulators discourage mistreating pets, but players will eventually find that it makes little difference how they choose to raise the zombies. The game doesn’t even keep track of time; zombies never suffer from starvation or separation anxiety, but only notice that they would like a snack or some playtime when players are actively playing Pet Zombies.
While playing with zombies, players will soon find that they need in-game currency for additional toys and food. To get these, they’ll have to play through some of the minigames. Compared to the actual zombie raising, this segment is much more fun, though that might not be saying much. These are usually just endurance trials, the player’s ability to catch coins flung from trash bins or floating throughout the airspace. As a time killer, these are sufficient but are unlikely to keep anybody’s attention more than for one or two tries at a time. Thankfully, that is enough to help players stock up or buy a precious toy they’ve just unlocked through raising their zombies.
It’s always interesting to see a game that takes a trend and turns it on its head. Upon seeing the game, I couldn’t help but think of Shawn of the Dead, yet the game fails to be a fulfilling comedic or immersive experience. Conceptually, it could have been fun. As a pet simulator, however, it creates too large a disconnect between the game and player to ever create the illusion of raising a pet. Players who always wanted to abuse their pets in Nintendogs or Petz might want to take a stab at Pet Zombies, but it will have little keeping power beyond that.
Available on: 3DS; Publisher: Majesco Games; Developer: 1st Playable Portables; Players: 1; Released: November 16, 2011; ESRB: Teen; Official Site
Note: A retail copy was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.