Everybody loves zombies. At least that’s what archaeologists digging through the remains of our modern game libraries will believe. While zombies have appeared in titles like Resident Evil and Half Life for decades, the gaming public’s modern fixation with the undead began in the late 2000s with games like Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead, and Call of Duty: World at War. While this trend has died down a bit in recent years, the cash cow that is the zombie apocalypse has yet to be sucked completely dry, at least according to developers, and so every so often we’re graced with another flesh grinding, gut spewing survival game.
Deadly Days, by developer Pixelsplit, is a rouge-like that follows a group of survivors as they attempt to gather just enough food and resources to keep the zombies, and starvation, at bay for another night. Each day you’ll outfit your survivors with weapons and upgrades to their skills before venturing out to scavenge for supplies. Every few days, the hordes become stronger and a new type of enemy appears, so working quickly and efficiently is essential for long term survival.
When first starting out, you begin with two survivors, each outfitted with some basic weapons like a handgun or a knife. You’ll load your survivors up on an old school bus before sending them off to one of three random locations to scavenge for materials, food, or survivors. Once you’ve arrived, the hordes start to pour in. While you don’t have direct control over your survivor’s weapons, you can select where you want them to go as they attack whatever enemy happens to be nearest at the time. This can take some time to get used to, especially when directing different survivors to loot different buildings, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a ton of fun and extremely satisfying to mow down a horde of zombies with your ever-growing ragtag band of survivors.
As is common with roguelikes, Deadly Days features a lot of randomly generated content. Your survivors, along with their special abilities, are randomized when you start, so it’s completely possible to begin the game with a close-combat expert and a medic making the earlier levels especially easy. Likewise, it’s possible, and far more likely, to begin with more useless characters. Either way, Deadly Days features 50 different characters and abilities, randomly generated weapon modifications, and a practically infinite set of procedurally generated maps. This ensures no two playthroughs are ever exactly alike while also making each encounter feel unique from the previous. I’ve played a lot of different rogue-like titles and am often disappointed to find that each “randomly generated” level feels exactly the same as all the others. Deadly Days offers enough gameplay variety to mostly avoid this pitfall.
Visually, Deadly Days features charming, handcrafted pixel art. The bright colors, pixelated blood, and jittering hordes of monsters reminds me a lot of that old mobile game, Infectionator. There are a huge number of weapons and modifications that trigger exciting animations like flamethrowers and laser cannons. There are also a number of unique unlockable abilities like an airstrike and a lightning storm that are always satisfying to watch. There are over 50 unique, handcrafted characters to find that add a bit of charm to the experience, but there is no real gameplay value besides their different skills.
Deadly Days is a fairly forgiving game, especially for a rogue-like. During your excursions to go scavenging, you start with the healing and airstrike ability, both of which have static cooldown timers, no matter how often you use them. This usually means the best strategy is to power through hordes of zombies before blasting them away with an airstrike and quickly healing your survivors from the resulting damage. This isn’t to say the game is particularly easy though. Randomly generated levels and survivors mean Deadly Days can vary greatly in difficulty from one playthrough to the next.
Deadly Days is a well balanced, charming, and fun roguelike for anyone who enjoys the classic zombie killer game. It can easily be learned in just a few minutes and each round is extremely short, so you can pick it up and play for just a few minutes at a time. Deadly Days can be enjoyed by hardcore and casual players alike, but it was made for the people without a lot of time for games who want a simple, lighthearted experience.