I’ve spent a number of late nights playing games on Armor and Kongregate, and was introduced to one of the first free Infectonator games by my sister. It was a fun little game with the ultimate goal being to infect as many humans with a zombie virus as possible, while effectively destroying the world one country at a time. I thought perhaps Infectionator: Survivors was a simple variation on this theme, but then, it may still be a browser game if that was the case. Survivors is much more complicated, with elements of real-time strategy, time/supply management, and tower defense – and this time, you’re defending the world, not infecting it.
There are four main survivors that begin the game, traveling in a car toward a military holding point. The car runs out of gas, and the survivors are then forced to push forward on foot. This comprises the tutorial portion of the game (if you choose to use it, which I would, as this is not a game typical of any one genre), introducing you to the concept of utilizing characters to search for supplies, defend against waves of zombies, and set up battle points in a series of obstacle courses.
The over-simplified description of how you play this game is that you point and click. There are hot keys (1, 2, 3, and 4 for character selection, A to toggle fullscreen, and R to reload weapons), but for the most part, your selections are made on-screen by clicking characters and then goals. Money is used to build turrets in certain spots, which increase your kill number and help to thin out the horde when times get tough. You also have the option of alerting the military by radio a total of 3 times, should you become overwhelmed.
Like any good tower defense game, placement is key. You have one melee character, and 3 characters with handguns. Seeking out the most effective placement for each, particularly with weapon upgrades, is only the beginning. You must also search items like boxes, shelves, and sleeping bags for supplies (these are noted on screen with yellow diamonds, as though they were sparkling), and those searches take time. One player must cover another during the search, else you end up inadvertently killing someone for the sake of a few coins.
Once you’re able to pass the first test, involving two fairly easy obstacles, you’re introduced to your safe house. Your car is there, and you must repair it and find supplies in order to continue and hopefully escape the zombie scourge, using a map and divvying your survivors up by those who will stay and make repairs, and those who will explore. This is where time management comes in, and where I honestly had the roughest time (I am impatient; strategy games are, admittedly, not my forte). Upgrades can be found or purchased, and include stronger guns like a rifle that can shoot through an entire row of zombies. As you progress, the difficulty ramps up, and decisions must be made faster and with fewer errors.
Infectonator: Survivors includes multiple throwbacks to the internet crowd from whence it came, as well as an unlockable survivor group based off of the original four characters in Left 4 Dead. The music is very fitting for the game type (these pixelated sprites harken to Super Nintendo days), but isn’t cloying or overly dramatic. There are no emotional heartstrings being tugged, and characters are treated as resources. Given the type of game, however, this is more of a perk, as it allows you to make decisions based on calculations rather than feelings.
Every time you begin a new game, the obstacles you face in each combat screen are different. This keeps the game from becoming routine, and increases the replay value considerably. Coupled with the impressive combination of game genres contained within, I find it hard to imagine anyone with experience in tower defense or strategy games becoming bored. The price is not yet listed on Steam, but early estimates for price are at around $9.99, with further improvements beyond Early Access bringing a price increase for more features. Whether that price increase will be worth it remains to be seen, but at $10, this is a fun addition to for those who enjoy zombie games but aren’t fans of the usual FPS style.