“Don’t Bite Me Bro!” Review
“Don’t Bite Me Bro!”, as you can tell from the title, is one of those games. A game you think of when you think “indie”. Let me run through the checklist: zombies five years after they went out of style, block art six years after, and just awful game design that never goes out of style, because I have devoted myself to Itch.io Hell. You are one of a party of plucky survivalists who must gather supplies and build a base to fend off a zombie invasion, yawn…
Sorry, I nodded off there. Right, zombies. Amongst your unique powers are a baseball bat and a gun, setting up traps and walls to keep them away from your camp as they move in large numbers and snore… Oh, I can’t keep up this charade. Take any random zombie game from the past five years. That’s this one. No innovations, no story, no sense of style, no sense of humour, nothing unique about it.
If that’s all you needed to hear to take this game off your potential plays, then I encourage you to skip the rest of this review. If it sounds bad, it is. Not monstrously bad, of course, as I don’t review them out of the optimistic assumption that you already know they’re bad. But it’s the subtly bad ones, the ones that affect impressionable young artists and game developers, that I live to destroy. For though a blatantly bad game makes its intentions clear that it does not want to be played, and nobody cared that it was constructed, a subtly bad game wastes far more effort and time from both the players and developers. The players have not yet developed their taste, and so play swill out of ignorance. The developers sink countless hours into developing something that is dead – on – arrival. It’s the developers I fear for; they die proud of shoddy work.
What is it?
The gameplay is flawed, to put it diplomatically. Combat involves hitting zombies with a baseball bat until one of you falls over. You can also lure them into a spike trap and watch them all fall down, which is mildly amusing, so it must be a bug. The hoards last for about ten seconds and are down for three minutes, so you’re sitting on your hands 95% of the time, mindlessly gathering resources and knocking out whatever zombies there are. Question: why is it that when I hit a tree, I have to hit the trunk it produces, and then run around to collect the wood? Why not convert the tree directly into wood? Why bog me down with pedantic busywork?
You can also drive a car, which I highly recommend against. The controls are… not good. Zombies don’t like to die when you run them over, instead being pushed off to the side. The acceleration jumps from too slow to too fast at an instant. The camera, as it always does, hates doing its job. It lazily follows you around and gets stuck behind tall buildings, and you can’t control it. What you can see is the trees falling down into chunks of wood, which you can’t pick up while you’re driving, and which disappears after a few seconds. So driving is worthless in this game. Fun.
You can also upgrade your base, because of course you can, even though its effectiveness is dubious thanks to the hoard only sending a dozen zombies during my entire playthrough. There’s next to no satisfaction in doing so, as getting resources is effortless, but it just takes time. Running up to props, hitting them, and having to run back to wherever their resources flew to, is just plain boring. It’s not like Minecraft, a game whose style will forever influence “one of those games,” where exploring the world is a treat in itself, and where the tediousness of hitting blocks is worth it for constructing your own little mechanisms with the understanding that the effort makes the reward all the more sweeter. This game doesn’t offer any of that. You have one campsite, and you build walls around it. That’s it.
Bragh ragh gagh
Whoever doctored up the box art screenshots deserves a marketing award for giving the impression that this game would be interesting. If you’re going to smash two cliches together, it might as well be zombies in Hell. I wonder how DOOM guy would react? Full disclosure, I never got to Hell. I played for forty – five minutes, or two episodes of Cowboy Bebop in keeping with the Bebop – Asskicking Probability Theorem, and I’ll have to put up some sort of disclaimer on my website for using “ass” and “Hell” in the same article lest an impressionable squirt comes along. Honey, I’m the guy who used “fuck” 101 times in the same article. Regardless, if the game suddenly does get incredibly good after three episodes of Cowboy Bebop, I’ll never see it. It had its chance with my heart, and it threw it all away.
The obligation of art is to grab out attention and hold it long enough to make us indebted to it. It is a basic rule that a piece that fails to impress within the first instant is a piece that will be finished, or even seen, by far fewer people than if it had an interesting beginning. The reason the first levels of DOOM, Quake, and Deus Ex (and also Human Revolution) were so successful is because they didn’t hold anything back. There wasn’t a fifteen – minute long mandatory tutorial right after an uninteresting opening movie — and if there was a movie, it was at least intriguing. You were in a room with a bunch of enemies and were told to figure things out yourself, like your dad sending you to the garage to do something constructive.
If the developer doesn’t care to make the first few minutes a smashing success, the most vital minutes that will determine how the player feels the rest of the game, then they are sure to not care about the rest of the game, either. As an artist, I get it. You believe that the player’s attention is boundless and that they care about as much as their work as you do. But this is an extremely dangerous mindset, for there is nobody who cares about your work as much as you, and your job is to make them care. Even if I didn’t like Kingdom Hearts, the big, monstrous shadow at the start with all the Disney princesses was at least interesting enough to keep me playing. But for an artist, whos career depends on being seen, to discourage their audience from seeing more, as is the case with this game? You’d either be an amateur, or just plain mad.
While here may be a good time buried underneath all of this, I don’t see it. The frame rate was a crisp 40 at the highest settings, even though this game could have been constructed on Kongregate in 2008. While the game’s greatest sin is its lack of stuff to do, its second greatest is its bog – standard design, and its third is gameplay that just isn’t fun. The three cardinal sins of indie games.
Even if the game was paced at a steady clip and let you kill the hoards in a bunch of inventive ways, it would have still been done before by the dozens of other zombies games that have come before and will continue to come as certain as the currents. Is it possible for a zombie game to come up with enough ideas, enough fresh concepts, to hold the interest of an audience who has seen it all? It would take an extremely skilled artist to create it.
What more can I say? It is what it is. Oh, and it is also in beta, so if the developers somehow turn this into something worth playing, then I will be impressed. As in, extremely impressed. But it will be copyrighted, and it will be a zombie game, and the world will turn, yet again. Daisy… Daisy… Give me your answer, do…