When I first heard about Containment: The Zombie Puzzler, I was intrigued. If I was personally asked to make a puzzle game, based on a zombie apocalypse, I would have absolutely no idea where to start. The fact that Containment exists means one of two things. Either some bright spark has worked a way to translate the zombie horror experience into a puzzler in a way that appropriately reflects the genre. Or we need to get the fuck over zombie-lit if people are going to such great lengths to tenuously shoehorn zombies into a completely inappropriate medium.
I’m pleased to say that after many hours puzzling on the mean zombie infected streets of Containment that it is in fact the former of the two options outlined above (that means its good). So how on earth does a “zombie puzzler” work? In Containment it’s a matching type setup. There is four different kind of survivors; Police, Infantry, Doctors and Punks. You simply move survivors of the same type around a zombie (or number of zombies) to destroy them. This gets rid of the survivors and the zombies. Leave zombies for too long and they will start infecting your survivors, meaning you have a much more zombies to kill, plus less survivors to match up. As soon as I started playing, after feeling a little apprehensive of the whole concept of a “zombie puzzler”, I abashedly found myself thinking “Well, yes that exactly how you would do a zombie puzzler. Touché Bootsnake Games”.
Plus it’s a zombie puzzler with a fully fledged story to boot(snake). While certainly not the most intricately woven plot. It’s about a town fighting back against the zombies, about the common prejudices of society falling apart so people from all walks of life can work together to overcome an existential menace. Where else would you see the lowly punk anarchist fighting alongside the regimented police and soldiers? The story is simply told with text that hovers over the landscape as the camera pans between stages. It’s real simple but nice and effective. There are even a few gags here and there to break up the tension.
Containment does a great job of capturing the vibe of zombie horror. There’s a terrific use of a pounding heartbeat all through the game that speeds up when you’re losing and mercifully slows down after you clear a big pack or two of the undead. There’s also lots of the schlock-horror sound effects all through the game which give it a big dose of personality. The survivors also throw out quips that got a giggle out of me here and there. Not sure why but I found it pretty damn funny hearing a punk tell a zombie to “piss off”. The gameplay mechanics make a lot of sense, and its a nice take on zombie-dom, as your fighting to franticly combine survivor types around one pack of zombies some where else the zombies are slowly infecting other survivors. As things get more and more hectic, there are screams and palpitating hearts making Containment the most horrific puzzle game I’ve ever played.
New elements are constantly pumped into the initial simple mechanics. There is a chance on each combination that the survivor type will drop a consumable item such as a grenade or molotov cocktail. These are used to destroy zombies without combining survivor types and absolutely necessary in the harder stages of the game. As well as the items the stages have intractable pieces of scenery like exploding gas tanks and falling signs. The lovely thing about all these items is that there is an abundance of collateral damage and many times you will kill more of your own survivors than zombies. It’s just a little thing but it raises the stakes and helps the horrific feel of the game. New zombie types are added as you progress which add some spice to the game. The zombie wizard requires you to match a certain type of survivor around it and just this little addition makes the game a hell of a lot tougher.
I have some gripes with Containment that get in the way of it being zombie puzzling bliss. I’m not sure if it’s by design or completely unintentional but the survivor types aren’t distinguishable enough and looking at a big block of survivors can be a bit of mess. With a brighter or snappier design I think a bit of unnecessary bewilderment could have been avoided. The selection and swapping of survivors also isn’t as tight as I would have liked. It’s sometimes pretty murky to see where the edges of a zombie pack actually are and I often found myself clicking and swapping the wrong type of survivor therefore wasting time and losing a level. Again I’m not sure if this is on purpose to add to the pandemonium but I would have preferred a tighter, less confusing experience.
Containment: The Zombie Puzzler, is exactly that; a zombie puzzler. I’m impressed at the fact that any one would even attempt such a crazy idea and it’s an achievement that the whole thing actually works. It’s a pretty specific niche but I’m sure enough people like zombies and puzzlers for it to work. Containment is getting 3/5 braaaains.