To anyone that has not played Dustoff Z, the trailer (which features lots of in-game footage) makes it look like a colourful, frantic, unwatchable and probably unplayable mess.
It is pleasing having completed the game, to be able to report that people would be very wrong to make that assumption.
As one of the last hopes of stopping the Zombie Apocolypse, climb aboard the chopper and lets explore why that is.
The game is a side scrolling shooter set on an Earth invaded by semi Minecraft styled Zombies.
Controls are fairly simple (mainly Left Thumbstick and Right Trigger) with no need to memorise complicated button mappings.
You play as a Helicopter Pilot among a small gang of survivors and it is your job to carry out various missions for the good of the group.
The game menu is styled around a Military Base from which you configure everything between missions. The Workshop is used for vehicles, Shooting Range for firepower, Road Map for Mission selection etc.
These missions involve various tasks such as:
- Protecting a Base
- Rescuing survivors
- Convoy protection
- Scavenging for parts
- Zombie Boss Battles
You can even try to ‘Escape To Canada’ where the aim is to see how far away from a base you can fly before losing your Helicopter.
A lack of fuel, health or ammunition will very quickly bring about your destruction and these have to be monitored very closely whichever mission is being played. Zombies of course will do everything they can to down your vehicle and eat your brains.
There is also a Daily Missions board that rewards the player with in-game currency Z Coins for carrying out goals such as, killing a certain number of Zombies or saving a selected number of Survivors.
Z Coins are also awarded for killing Zombies during gameplay.
The player starts with only a very basic Helicopter built from junk but throughout the game you are able to buy or earn better models.
Helicopters have the ability to be improved upon with Armour, Speed and Ammunition all upgradable at the Base Menu using Z Coins and machine Parts awarded for mission completion.
Basic Helicopters only have room for two Shooters and four Survivors but as they are improved you can carry up to four Shooters and six Survivors. This larger seating capacity is particularly useful as it reduces the number of trips required to pick up Survivors. Having more firepower on board certainly makes a big difference when taking on the Zombie hordes.
Other useful attachments can be picked up if you spot them during missions. A nose attached Mini Gun and Flamethrower being the most useful in my hands.
Shooters can be hired at the base firing range (some although some require unlocking) and can be upgraded, again using Z Coins and Food awarded for mission completions until you have a dream team with a range of different weapons to call upon.
My dream team consisted of characters rocking
- a Light Machine Gun
- a Grenade Launcher
- a Rocket Launcher
- and a Mini Gun
This weapon combination paired with the Flame Thrower Helicopter attachment was ridiculously useful during the harder missions.
The only issue I had with my team was that the name of one of the characters could be judged as a slightly inappropriate choice by the developers.
The base super computer Alman-O-Tronic is used to collect enough data about the Zombie invasion during missions to unlock powerful characters, vehicles, and armamants.
During fights with Zombies and enemy survivors in vehicles, you are able to occasionally pick up data regarding the different types of Zombies, enemy vehicles, lieutenants and bosses.
It is worth noting that all Bosses and Lieutenants have to be killed and hauled back to the base for examination, in order to collect all of the data required to unlock the final mission.
Taking the time for this data collection is well worth the effort. The final mission is all about taking on the Zombies on their own turf……Mars.
Gameplay generally consists of flying from left to right avoiding obstacles and carrying out tasks while killing countless undead that are trying to stop you……. and boy is it addictive.
Dustoff Z has to be in the list of contenders for the ‘Just one more go’ award 2020.
This is not only due to the playability of the game but also to the totally banging soundtrack.
Ranging from AC/DC style rock (in the Base menu no less) to Double Kick Drumming Metal, Banjo twanging Country and Orchestral style pieces, the score to Dustoff Z really is on another level.
The propulsive nature of the styles just compels you to try a failed mission again and again and again. It really is impressive on an Indie title such as this.
Although gameplay footage can look messy, once you are playing the game yourself it all makes perfect sense.
Being in control of the Helicopter, strafing the horde and dipping down into the mass of Zombies to pick up Fuel, Health, Ammo and Z Coins, time itself seems to slow down and you become as one with the machine you are flying.
As strange as that may sound it just works. Playing the game is a completely different experience to how it looks from the trailer.
Missions allow you to save at fairly regular intervals on Helicopter Pads that also replenish your required inventory. This is especially welcome for filling up ammunition reserves as you need a lot.
Boss battles are more of a challenge as there is generally a fire barrier between you and a save pad once the battle has started. There is however, a ‘get out of jail free card’ available to you If the boss manages to take you out. For the amazingly cheap price of 50 Z coins you can buy yourself back into the battle.
Obviously you do not have to do this and can choose to start the battle again from the beginning.
Difficulty in the normal campaign is fairly standard, playing through the game on harder settings increases the number of obstacles encountered, especially the green smoke belching mini volcanos imported from Mars.
Unlike leaking pipe fire obstacles which do slight damage if you fly through them, the green smoke throws you back the way you have come and also has a habit of pushing you into large fire obstacles which hurt a lot more.
Even trying taking off from the base on the harder difficulties you are surrounded by attacking Zombies. Considering that some Zombies try to hold on to the chopper and some Zombies explode, getting off the ground is not something that you want to delay.
My personal favourite Zombie type was the Zombie Shark. Formations of them flying up out of the sea had a balletic beauty all of its own, plus they were really fun to fight off.
It is worth playing the harder levels just to spot some great Easter Eggs such as the Bride from Kill Bill in her Bruce Lee Tracksuit fighting off a swarm of Zombies with her Katana.
In fact there are several Pop Culture references throughout the game that are fun to look out for. Apart from the obvious Terminator styled Shooter ‘Zombinator’ I also spotted references to Resident Evil’s Umbrella Corporation (at the Zombie HQ) and Mad Max.
All in all Dustoff Z is a simple, fun and addictive flying shooter. Even though it may not look appealing at first it soon makes a really positive impression and makes it hard to put your controller down.
I was not expecting much but it turned out to be a lot of fun. Get involved and build your own Zombie slaying dream team…It is worth it.
Played on Xbox Series X