Among my two most recent purchases was the zombie survival game Hit Z Road. Admittedly we have hit peak zombie in today's pop culture and the trend will probably start to fade soon. As such game developers face a challenge when it comes to creating a zombie game that isn't "just another zombie game". Hit Z Road manages to succeed in that endeavor, though disappointingly (for me) not as I had hoped.
I was browsing the game selection in store when I came across this title and only had the box art to go on. The box art immediately captivated me. Judging from the style and allusions to traveling down Route 66 while capping zombies I was imagining a retro zombie shooter which really would have been awesome. According to the game explanation you drive from Chicago to Los Angeles, scrounging for guns and gas and fighting zombies along the way. Game events are covered by drawing cards with pictures showing what you are up against and giving little plot point flavor texts. I had visions of a game that has you blasting down Route 66 in a Hudson Hornet while fighting zombies as they overran classic tourist traps. Everything in the game's styling suggests retro.
Aaaannnnd, it wasn't. Upon opening the box I found that the game is set in modern times and rather that having 50s family vacation style photographs as in game pictures, it's modern digital cameras and selfie pics. And the cards don't give you any sense of where you are in America, they're just pictures of random zombie encounters. The only reason the box gave the impression of '50s retro is because the entire game is designed to look cobbled together from spare parts.
I was a disappointed at the lack of a true retro theme, but after I played the game a few times I have decided that while it undoubtedly would have been cooler with said full retro theme, the game still distinguishes itself as not being "just another zombie game".
Much of what makes this game is the styling of it. As I said, the game is made to look as though it was cobbled together from spare parts. The picture cards are made to look like they were made from old playing cards, with a variety of smudge and dirt patterns that actually make the cards look like a used deck. The card art on the backs of the cards do have a little retro to them as to the caps and when you combine the box art with the fact that resources are tracked with bottle caps (cardboard punchouts), the game still gives a delightful Fallout feel. Experienced gamers will get a chuckle as some game parts are made to look like they were scavenged from other actual games.
The gameplay of Hit Z Road is fast and simple and it makes a fine beer and pretzles game. Players draw cards to form four different paths that players then bid resources to choose from. Each path can result in you scrounging different kinds of resources, fighting zombies of various numbers, and collecting resources that can affect gameplay (such as commandeering a school bus and then turning it into a Fury Road death machine).
Hit Z Road shows itself to be a fun game for zombie enthusiasts and the style of the game makes it visually entertaining to play. I still would have enjoyed a retro feel to the gameplay pictures (and sticking the pictures at landmarks and tourist traps), but overall I still enjoy my purchase and recommend it to other zombie gamers.