Boxhead: The Zombie Wars – PC
Platform: PC (Flash)
Developer: Sean Cooper
Publisher: Sean Cooper
Release Date: March 2008*
Nerd Rating: 8.5 out of 10
*Release date is based on the listed publication date from several gaming websites.
If you attended middle school or any K-thru-8 school back in the middle of the 2000s, you probably remember a time when laptops and other computers were being bought in bulk for so called “technology literacy” programs. And although the point of this was to start building up STEM programs, most of the time kids were just stuck doing the same boring Microsoft Office assignments for months. Luckily, none of the teachers had eyes around the room, nor was that screen-viewer software around yet, so instead of wasting away hours “making a brochure in Word,” my peers and I would scour the Internet looking for the next hot game to play.
Boxhead: The Zombie Wars was one of those hot games. Well, not at first. See, it started when all of the wannabe-cool kids started using their parents’ cash to buy memberships on RuneScape, and once at least five or so of their accounts had been banned, it was all about Adventure Quest: Worlds. Of course most of my peers had short attention spans, so next everyone was hooked on Icy Tower. And of course, me being the trend setter that I was as a middle school kid, I introduced them to the world of online flash games. Thus, everyone became addicted to Boxhead: The Zombie Wars.
Now if you’ve never heard of the Boxhead series, it was basically just a series of pretty fast-paced action-oriented games made by Sean Cooper (who used to work for Electronic Arts) and distributed across flash game sites for free. All of the Boxhead games shared the series’ identifiable character designs-everyone, creature, monster, was boxy. Boxhead: The Zombie Wars is the fifth game in the Boxhead series, but probably the most popular. Hell, even today people are still submitting high scores for it (although not as high of scores as they used to be)!
Boxhead: The Zombie Wars is split into two modes; Classic and Defense. Classic Mode plays like the previous Boxhead installments, with the player character roaming around an area shooting Zombies as they arrive from the sides of the stage every round. In Defense Mode, your goal hasn’t changed, but this time you start out with a barracked area fixed with turrets and grenade launchers around it. Both of the two modes have four maps each which are playable on one of four difficulties (Beginner, Intermediate, Expert, Nightmare).
Regardless of which mode you choose to play, you can still opt to run and gun or build up a complicated defense system to your heart’s content. However, Defense Mode is easier for racking up a high score early on as you start with several automated weapons that will handle the big work for you. Although each stage has its own separate high score board, choosing what you assume is the easiest stage won’t actually help bump you up in the high scores.
Each stage begins with the player character equipped with a pistol in the center as zombies start pouring in from all sides of the stage. In order to complete a round, you have to kill all of the zombies (once they’ve finished spawning) and of course, stay alive. As you shoot down zombies, you’ll begin to unlock new weapons, such as the shotgun, and upgrades for your current ones. Sometimes zombies will also drop black boxes after their deaths; these contain weapons and health. These boxes only appear for a limited amount of time, however, so it’s best to snatch any up when they first appear.
As you progress through the stages you’ll also encounter new types of enemies, including a faster, red shirted zombie, mummies, vampires, and demons. Each enemy has their own special ability: the red shirted zombies are super fast, mummies seem to deal a lot of damage, vampires can teleport around the stage, and demons have a flamethrower attack that can kill you in one hit, although it isn’t too hard to avoid as it only appears in a straight line. And you continue on in this process of killing zombies and other creatures until your untimely demise.
Flash games are usually relatively simple, but Boxhead: The Zombie War‘s design makes it feel more like a commercial game than any old freebie you could find on the web. It’s obvious that Sean Cooper, the game’s creator and a BAFTA award winning game designer, really put his heart into making the game. It’s fun, but also challenging; simple, but allows for strategizing. And also really, really addictive. No wonder a bunch of eighth graders spent hours playing Boxhead: The Zombie Wars instead of making stupid pamphlets in Microsoft Word.
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