You may recall the write up on Dustoff Z when it was in Early Access, well, luck would have it that I have had the chance to play the Switch version in time for the recent release.
Considering the number of titles to consume (not complaining!), I have to live by a very balanced diet of RPGs, sports, FPS, strategy, beat ’em ups and racing, among many. With this game, I threw gaming nutrition out of the window and binged through completion in a couple of days.
When I say completion, that means upgrading and locking mostly everything, but not finishing the game in the <gulp> hardest difficulty. However, the fundamental experience is here, albeit, a hard, not epic one.
Dustoff Z Switch Review
I’m already familiar with this title from Invictus Games, which has been published by Zordix. Let’s assume you aren’t, so here’s the skinny: zombies have invaded the world of Dustoff Z, it’s time for survival, but unlike the plebs on the ground, you can fly.
Flying is via way of the helicopter-mobile-machinery-thingymajig. It would appear that you are a pilot flying the illustrious Jet Ranger helicopter (yes, I’m a geek), but it’s shot down.
As the best pilot in town, your services are needed, do you make do with what you’ve got to hand and that means building a chopper out of a school bus, Chevy or even a metallic armadillo contraption that looks like it was built by Skynet.
Your mission is to fly a crew of two, later more, through zombie-infested landscapes and retrieve equipment for your base, rescue survivors, protect convoys, defeat gigantic zombies and return their bodies for research, or escape to Canada.
Escape To Canada
The latter sounds a good thing, assuming they have no zombies, but you’re restricted to a few landscapes of destruction with the zombies on the floor attempting to reach your skids and pull you down, oversized ones throwing debris at you, plus the odd environmental hazard.
Controls in Dustoff Z are simple in that you move up or down, left or right. You have a person (or a pair) on the left, another on the right and you hold R2 to attack anything in sight automatically. Additionally, you have a winch that you can use to retrieve building parts or make-do weapons to drop on the hordes.
Generally speaking, manoeuvring is good, and once you level up and speedy enough, you can fly through the levels with ease. One of the biggest criticisms of Dustoff Z, however, is the leeway between your chopper and a building as occasionally you’ll clip a derelict building when you think you’ve cleared it.
On top of this, there are a few areas with toxic smog that for some reason, bounce your helicopter back, despite being a vapour, and it’s tricky to regain control. This was probably the most irritating part – especially if you’re in a hurry (levels are timed, though you can continue when time is up).
You have three main gauges: fuel, health and ammo – all of which can be upgraded, but also can be replenished in-game. You’ll receive drops from zombies so you’ll need to engage as and when. In some cases, you can fly through and do your mission without too much fuss, but if you find your levels drop, you either have to kill something or find one of the checkpoints that save and refill your vehicle.
Each level has a three-star system, which usually means completing the mission on time, and without casualties. You’ll be rewarded with beans, cogs and coins. The latter is used to buy people and vehicles (once unlocked) but also for upgrades. Beans are used for people, cogs for helicoptors. Beanz meanz gunz.
Between each stage, you can level up your players with their damage, rate of fire and accuracy. Each one is capped, depending on the weapon (flamethrower, shotgun, RPG, etc), but as you max out their capacity, the character’s appearance will change.
The same for the helicopters in Dustoff Z, only you can improve their armour, speed and ammo capacity. Once ready, you can choose who sits where and equip either a melee or ranged turret ranging from miniguns to an electrified chassis.
Get To Da Choppa!
Missions can be replayed at any time to grind a bit, but that’s not necessary for Dustoff Z, and it’s well balanced in its challenges and upgrades, but you will have to upgrade regularly. I managed to upgrade everyone, but even when maxed out, some characters work better in a level than others )my preference was the hunting rifle and flamethrower for boss battles.
Two other bonuses include a wiki of the zombies you encounter, which also unlock new characters and helicopters, plus a daily mission checklist that awards you with coins when you complete the objectives.
Dustoff Z is as infectious as the zombie plague, and I have had a rough couple of days because I’ve been up late playing in handheld until the early hours. The missions take a couple of minutes each, and there are 30+, but they’re moreish and make you want to replay a lot of the time.
Presentation-wise, Dustoff Z visuals are great and are accompanied by a hillbilly-type soundtrack which is as catchy as the gameplay. Between a few missions, you’ll get a story piece which resembles more of a visual novel, and the humour is on par with the general vibe the game gives. It was fun to play on the PC, but in handheld mode, ignoring completing it, Dustoff Z is one of my go-to arcade titles right now.