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Stubbs the Zombie

The 30-second pitch for Stubbs the Zombie is supposed to be: 'It's the zombie game where you're the zombie!' That leaves two problems, however.

The first is what to do with the remaining 26 seconds, and the next is that, for many gamers, the real 30-second pitch is: 'It's that game which Alex Seropian, who founded Bungie and then left, is making with the Halo engine!'

Even that leaves you with a few spare seconds, which is still for the best, because there's more to Stubbs than meets the eye.

The setting takes some explaining. Stubbs isn't just a failed salesman, he's a salesman who failed during the Great Depression. His resulting death left him buried in the dust of a Pennsylvania field.

His miserable grave is disturbed, however, when 25 years later a local entrepreneur builds a city of the future on top of it, all flying cars and '50s optimism. Stubbs awakens, and a frenzy of brain-eating and limb-wrenching ensues.

Sound serious? It isn't at all. The game draws on its real-world inspiration with gentle affection, and the result is funny and fresh. That deftness carries on into the gameplay.

Stubbs, although as fast on his feet as all modern zombies need to be, isn't armed.

Reduced to melee attacks and an endless, suffocating arsenal of 'gut grenades', his main offensive capability is to eat the brains of his enemies, turning them into zombies and creating for himself a small army of followers.

He also has the option of ripping off his arm. This then becomes independently mobile, and can scuttle up walls, through vents and on to ceilings.

Drop the hand down on to an enemy's head, and you gain control of their brain, allowing you to use whatever weapon they happen to be holding.

This is a game that still faces huge challenges - the humour of the setup could jar as often as it pleases, the remote hand puzzles could become tediously reliant on air-vents and switches, Stubbs' simple combat could become wearing - but there's no questioning the appeal of the premise or the solidity of the preparation.

Less spectacular, perhaps, than the 30-second pitch, but infinitely more reassuring.

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