500 Word Game Reviews: Zafehouse – Diaries

Halloween may still be over a week away, but try telling that to the zombie horde that’s rapidly gathering outside your home… 😛

As with many other newer games I’ve reviewed here, screenshots feature small text designed to be read at much higher resolutions than this blog format allows (I might get around to updating it one day!) – in the meantime, opening images in a new tab and deleting the ?w=450 part of the url will let you see them in full-size.

Zafehouse: Diaries (2012) – Stragegy, PC.

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Story: There’s a zombie apocalypse going on, and you play as a group of survivors. You must work together to fend off the zombies, survive as long as possible, and hopefully escape!

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Gameplay: Zafehouse is a strategy game, so rather than blowing heads off zombies with shotguns, it’s more about resource management, securing your current hideout against the horde, and ensuring you put your survivors’ skills to good use. But yes, storming outside shotguns blazing is still an option.

There are only two main screens. The first is the map, which shows where your survivors are currently located, as well as what other buildings are around them. It is here that you assign tasks to each of your survivors.

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Tasks include watching for or sniping at zombies, boarding up entrances, making traps, cleaning up corpses, preparing meals, raiding other buildings… all important stuff, but as your party is limited to five people (and may have fewer), you’ll have to prioritize. Some survivors will be better at certain things than others due to their backgrounds, physical fitness etc, so be sure to leave treating injured survivors to the surgeon in your party, for example. Assuming you’re lucky enough to get a surgeon.

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The second screen is the diary. The game is broken into hour-long segments. Once you’ve assigned tasks to all your survivors, click the stopwatch and that hour will play out. The text in the diary will tell you what (if anything) your party members achieved, how many zombies they’ve seen, how much noise is coming from your building… and whether they’re getting along. Read these events, and spend the next hour reacting as necessary.

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That second from last point is important, because the survivors can be as deadly as the zombies! As well as skills, each character comes with their own prejudices – they may be racist, homophobic, hate men, despise the poor etc. Keep people who dislike each other apart if you want to keep morale and productivity high. And don’t trust that one person everyone hates with preparing the food!

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There are three difficulty levels: Easy starts you with one survivor, but you can recruit new ones each time you find them. There is no end goal, just survive as long as possible. Normal sees you searching for parts to fix a car and escape – no time limit, but you’re limited to the five people you start with. In Hard, you must find clues to be in the right place at the right time to escape by helicopter. You have only a week.

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Controls: Entirely mouse-based. Drag your characters (each represented by a different counter) from location to location. Click to assign tasks, move equipment from one hideout to another, to advance the clock etc.

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Graphics and sound: Very basic, graphics-wise. Two screens, the basic but functional map, and the diary which is mostly text with a few supplementary images. You can see photos of your survivors’ faces, which become blood-stained if they’re injured. Don’t expect to actually see any zombies!

The sound effects do the trick – you’ll hear zombie noises, gunshots, weather effects, hammering or glass breaking, to complement whatever the diary says is happening.

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Overall: VERY difficult and frustrating. Addictive in short bursts, but the diary text gets repetitive after a while. 6/10

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