Up until a few years ago I was not really a fan of horror games. Jump scares are just not that scary to me. I prefer more subtle tension that has you on the edge of your seat waiting for when the other shoe will drop. Just after the new year indie games studio released a horror game for the holidays – Zombie Claus.
You have been very naughty, and Santa has come to visit you on Christmas Eve. He decided instead of coal, that he would bring you death. Stuck in your house, with an evil Santa chasing you, you have to quickly make up for your bad behavior over the past year. To do this, you must solve puzzles, complete jobs and find gifts for those in your life. Of course, this is a bit difficult with a homicidal holiday humbug after you.
This makes for an interesting premise for a game, but unfortunately, it is poorly executed. You are thrown into your home with zero information about what you need to do. You must figure out not only the controls for the game, but also what you need to do all while trying not to be killed. Once you figure out the basic controls, you are still left with wandering the house in search of tasks to perform. Game design makes this even more of a chore.
One of the easiest ways to avoid your tormentor is to duck into another room. The problem with this, is that you have to open and close doors, and that can be a chore. If you open a door, you have to make sure that you are on the correct side. Doors act like walls, so there is no way to push past it in order to get down a hall, or into a room. I lost count of the number of times that I was killed because a door wouldn’t close fast enough, or it was blocking my way through a hall.
Game graphics are decent. You have a nice little home to wander around, and it is festively decorated. There are even candy canes hanging on the walls of the bedroom, to remind you this is a holiday horror game. The sound design goes beyond any of the graphic decorations. You are treated to endless looping Christmas songs as you try to complete the game. There is also the issue of voice acting. Zombie Claus speaks in the language that you pick, but many in game items aren’t. This makes understanding some items, that lead to gifts, impossible to understand.
Zombie Claus is available now on Steam for $5.99. If you view the game as puzzle title, it isn’t that bad. But if you are looking for a holiday horror title, I would recommend checking another stocking. The game has potential, but is mired with poor execution. Once you do finish the game, the only reason to replay it would be to try and complete it quicker. This means there is very little replay value.