Corpse Killer: 25th Anniversary Edition
Long before games like The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima were winning BAFTA awards for the quality of their visuals, acting, and sound quality, videogames were not nearly as highly regarded as forms of entertainment. Things weren’t so bad when the blocky visuals were clearly aimed at keeping the children quiet, but when 90s games began to portray characters with real-life actors in FMV (full motion video) with a view to expanding their audience, then the perceptions began to take a slide.
These early attempts at upping the production values of videogames rarely went to plan; often crafted by small teams with limited budgets, they were never likely to attract the kind of talent that would appeal to the mass market and the finished products were laughably hokey at best and just-plain-bad at worst. In the interest of nostalgia and of getting a laugh or two (I hope), Limited Run Games played necromancer to one of these long dead fossils of gaming and raised Corpse Killer from the grave for its 25th anniversary.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ B-movie nostalgia hit|
+ Funny, tongue-in-cheek cheesiness
+ Interesting behind the scenes production footage
|Negatives||– Basically no gameplay to speak of|
– Nothing has aged well… at all
– Painfully cliched
|Price (When Reviewed)||£11.19|
|Our Playtime||2 hours 5 mins|
|Available On||Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4|
As the ropey title would suggest, Corpse Killer is a videogame homage to the humble zombie B-movie, complete with ridiculous plot line and bad acting. You play the role of a nameless US marine whose team have been dropped onto a tropical island to stop the maniacal Dr Hellman, who plans to use voodoo-science to take over the world with an army of zombies. The entire game is acted out in FMV scenes with your allies Julie, a spunky vixen of a journalist and Winston, a Rastafarian tracker, being the main characters. The antagonist cast is made up of Dr Hellman and the marine’s own squadmates, who have been captured and are one-by-one turned into the living dead to do Hellman’s bidding and fight off the hero. If you’re a fan of this kind of eyebrow raising storyline then there’s something to be said for the silliness of it all – this is Braindead without the gore (or the zombie baby, for that matter).
To be clear, the whole premise has been intentionally put together with tongue firmly in cheek, and there’s a lean into the cheesiness that makes B-moves so well loved. The make up ranges from semi-decent special effects to corny Michael Jackson-in-Thriller, and the laboratory sets have the look of a 90s Nickelodeon masterpiece like The Secret World of Alex Mack, with multicoloured bubbling liquids galore. The costumes are where things genuinely work to entertain the player though, with the zombies dressed entirely inappropriately for the location or the plot, and to hilarious effect. There are disco dancing Beegees zombies, weird Abe Lincoln-looking zombies and even punk rock zombies in baggy jeans, backwards hats and wallet chains (who I lovingly nicknamed Pretty Fly for a Dead Guy)! They glide or sometimes fly around the screen with no attempt at realism at all, attempting to keep costs down and look utterly daft, and in that they wholeheartedly succeed!
Sadly, much of the rest of the comedy has not aged well at all, with Winston spouting cringingly stereotypical dialogue between stirring up voodoo magic potions. Julie isn’t much better either, rather brazenly flirting with the player through the screen that culminates in an awkward beach frolic upon completing the game in an obvious bid to tickle the imaginations of barely-pubescent boys in the mid-90s. Vincent Sciavelli, to whom the remaster is dedicated following his death in 2005, easily turns in the best performance as Dr Hellman, but there really isn’t a lot for the much loved character actor to work with.
So we’ve established that the plot and acting aren’t up to much, but what about the gameplay?
Well, in the time it will take you to read this paragraph you could have experienced quite literally all of the gameplay that Corpse Killer has to offer from start to finish. No – really. Each level is made up of a 15-20 second side-scrolling view of part of the island – whether a jungle, beach or temple – and you steer a cursor around the screen to shoot at zombies as they appear. The enemies each take a few shots from your trusty machine gun before the actor hilariously tumbles to the floor only to be replaced by a handful of other decaying baddies for you to gun down. Reaching the end of the camera shot you’re rewarded with another short story scene with the rambunctious Winston or the sassy Julie, before moving onto the next level where you proceed to do exactly the same thing. Again and again and again and again, in 15 second stints.
There’s no challenge to any of this whatsoever, and you can probably survive many of the levels without killing more than a handful of zombies at all. Your voodoo-altered squadmates are offered up as boss fights later on, but these encounters use exactly the same mechanics, with the bosses simply given significantly more health than the standard enemies. Between levels you head back to the menu screen where you can complete a series of (near identical) optional levels to gather weapons (like special anti-zombie rounds) or supplies, before wading through the same five or six levels that lead to the next boss. This is rinsed and repeated until you face Dr Hellman himself, who also offers no surprises whatsoever.
The one aspect of the game that I did find legitimately enjoyable was the behind the scenes content that can be unlocked using points scored in the game. There’s a plethora of stuff to collect, from production stills and soundtracks to cast and crew interviews, which were by far the best part of the experience. I found myself genuinely interested in what the actors, make-up artists, camera crew and directors had to say about the making of the game, and the barely veiled disdain they show to the interview team, presumably working for the developer, Digital Pictures. There’s a visible distaste that any of the parties involved have found themselves working on this project, and the sense of ‘Hollywood ego’ is palpable in many of the pieces to the point that some are genuinely uncomfortable to watch. You’re left with an unmistakable sense that literally the only thing that could make this ridiculous zombie premise any worse is that it’s being created for a videogame, and that most of the cast and crew would rather be anywhere on earth than on that set for that project.
Corpse Killer is a decaying relic of its time, with few redeeming features that would encourage anyone to unearth it. The full FMV levels are hilariously bad and the point-and-click shooting is the dictionary definition of rinse and repeat gameplay. B-movie aficionados or former Sega 32X players seeking some nostalgia may be slightly more inclined to resurrect this one, but the cheesy plot, poor production, and miniscule amount of gameplay will not appeal to many modern players at all. It’s an amusing time capsule to my misguided, zombie-enthused youth, but this is one that should absolutely have stayed buried.
In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.