If there is anything that can turn even the most banal of arcade shooters into a grotesquely adorable slugfest, it's zombies, and Little Red Riding Hood's Zombie BBQ is loaded with an impressive array of undead. It also boasts a great sense of humor and combines fast-paced shoot-'em-up gameplay with twisted fairy tale characters to create a more unique experience. Unfortunately, control issues, frequent slowdown, and a slew of other quirks often undermine your joyful zombie slaying, reducing Zombie BBQ to just another mediocre shooter on the DS.
Little Red Riding Hood's latest adventure opens in Fairy Tale Land, where a devastating zombie plague has turned the lovable denizens of folklore, such as Sleeping Beauty and Pinocchio, into gruesome flesh-eating zombies. You'll assume control of either Riding Hood, who is deeply fond of her machine gun, or Momotaro, who riddles his enemies with ninja stars, as you search for the source of the infestation to save the world. Though the simplistic, disjointed plot barely holds the game together, it still emphasizes Zombie BBQ's refreshingly dark humor, which should be a treat for fans of classic zombie films.
Gameplay is straightforward, spanning both screens with an isometric perspective and challenging you to plow through zombies as you advance through a stage. Zombies appear on either screen and slowly shuffle their way toward Riding Hood, who is positioned on the bottom screen on a horizontal, seven-panel movement field that you tap to dodge enemy attacks. You simply select a zombie or touch the screen in the general direction you wish to fire and hold the stylus down to shoot, while lifting the stylus reloads; if you get touched by a zombie or level obstruction, your health meter depletes, and if it diminishes entirely, the game is over. The lack of objectives, character ability growth, or even weapon modification is disappointing, but there is sufficient weapon variety to keep things interesting. Weapon icons are conveniently displayed on the bottom screen, which you merely tap to select, making weapon cycling fast and efficient--a necessity when a horde of zombies is stumbling your way.
The game's most fun aspect is its healthy zombie variety and inclusion of minibosses, which are steadily introduced as you progress. You'll encounter spitting zombies, slimes that cover the field in goo, creatures that lob objects at you, and even flying skulls and laser-projecting nutcracker men; you'll also notice creative, if simple, boss design that forces you to pummel zombie bosses while quickly memorizing their attack patterns in standard arcade fashion. Though defeating bosses can be exciting, there is very little depth or strategy involved other than memorizing these attack patterns or shooting the occasional exploding barrel, which is often oversimplistic and dull.