Little Red Riding Hood's Zombie BBQ Preview
When the good folks at Highwater Group (handling PR duties for publisher Destineer) sat me down with a copy of upcoming DS entry Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ, I was expecting…well hell, with a name like that I'm not sure what I was expecting. But, just a few minutes in, I was hooked…hard; just ask Highwater’s Alex Brewer, who was desperately trying to keep me engaged in a demo of upcoming snowboarding title Stoked (BTW, Shawn White should be nervous about this one, but that’s another story). It wasn’t that powder-loving thrill seekers, hopping from helicopters onto the slopes, weren’t worthy of my attention, it’s just that my dual DS screens were currently filled with blood-dripping, zombie versions of my favorite fairy tale friends—who could take their eyes off that?
But before I get ahead of myself, let’s talk a bit about this “fairy tale.” This isn’t a game adapted from a Little Golden Book or Disneyland attraction; no sir, despite the presence of Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, and many more bedtime story staples, this bizarrely titled entry offers an extremely twisted take on the happily-ever-after tales you might have been told as a kid. It takes a bit of the premise from the Shrek films—skewering all that saccharine sweet kiddy fare for the purpose of amusing adults—but tosses in more guns and gore than Mike Myers' green ogre could ever stomach.
The red-clad protagonist has traded her crimson cloak for a bosom-brimming, skin-tight get-up (hey, at least it’s still red), and her enchanted forest is now home to blood-thirsting flesh eaters. Armed with a variety of guns and grenades, Hood takes out these hungry hordes with giddy delight, as players control the action entirely with the stylus (although some traditional control options are also available.) As both screens—displaying a top-down view of the action—automatically scroll you forward in an on-rails sort of fashion, you can move Red left or right to avoid oncoming threats. She also possesses quick dodge and dash moves for faster getaways. However, if you’re quick on the draw, you won’t need to rely on these evasive maneuvers; the best strategy is to take out the shuffling brain-suckers before they get too close. You can aim all the way to the upper screen, before the baddies reach the lower display, so planning ahead is key.
Red’s basket of whup-ass is pretty robust. She can carry machine guns, flame-throwers, shotguns, lasers, and bombs. Shoot by simply pointing and tapping the stylus at enemies (double-tap for bombs), and switch out weapons by selecting them from the right side of the HUD. Reloading is handled by simply picking the stylus up from the screen. Weapons become available via destructible boxes during battle, so it’s fun to grab them as they appear and experiment with different zombie-dropping techniques. And, if all the gunplay doesn’t fell the blood-lusting beasties, Red also has a stylus-scratching melee move to shake off those that get too close.
In addition to Red and her zombie-crushing goodies, the game also sports a second playable protagonist; although I didn’t get to play as Momataro—a Japanese folklore hero—I hear his shuriken-chucking skills are a great way to tackle waves of zombies. The game also supports multiple modes. I got to fry zombies in the straightforward Story campaign, but the fairly self-explanatory Survival and Boss Attack options promise to pack in even more replay value. In fact, that latter mode should be a hoot, seeing one of the game’s coolest features is its depiction of fairy tale characters as brain eating undead. The Three Little Pigs, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, and Santa Claus all get the rotting flesh makeover—you really haven’t experienced the severity of an undead curse till you've seen the puppet-who-wants-to-be-a-real-boy turned into a flesh-hungering freak, complete with the ability to use his own head as a projectile or eviscerate with his sharpened wooden limbs. Santa equally elcits nightmares with his suped-up sled and pointy icicle projectiles. Even creepier, as the set-up goes, he becomes hungry for Hood after feasting on his own reindeer—venison, yum!
Giving our favorite fairy tales a gory makeover is really what separates this one from the rest of the busy DS line-up. The gameplay is extremely simple and straightforward, albeit super addictive. But the twisted concept delivers a level of mature humor we rarely see on Nintendo’s family friendly handheld. Honestly, you’re not likely to see a zombie’s legs shuffle forward after its torso has been blown off in any other DS title. And Sleeping Beauty—who collects the corpses of her suitors in BBQ—probably wouldn’t be welcome in Mario’s Mushroom Kingdom, princess or not. This under-the-radar game made quite the bloody splash at PAX last month, and after doing some zombie slaying at the hands of a sexy Red Riding Hood I can understand why. I look forward to attending this BBQ when the full version ships this fall.