Publisher: Ska Studios / Developer: Ska Studios / Platform: Xbox LIVE Indie Games

ZP2KX, short for Zombies and Pterodactyls 20XX, is the “sequel” of sorts to last year’s ZP2K9; a side-scrolling 2D multiplayer platformer/shooter from Ska Studios, the makers of other Xbox Live Indie Game hits such as I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1 and Dishwasher: Dead Samurai. Every game by Ska Studios boasts completely hand-drawn characters and levels, which all look quite impressive, especially in comparison to the stock 3D models that the majority of the Indie Games tend to stick with.

ZP2KX is unique in one respect in that it is one of the few Indie Games on Xbox Live that not only supports online multiplayer, but encourages it. ZP2KX does not support splitscreen multiplayer, and the only single player mode is a practice mode with bots. While you can still earn experience and level up as you can online, it’s obvious most of the love went into the online portion of the game.

ZP2KX got my interest right off the bat from the amount of customization it allows the user toward his or her character, which is usually a selling point for me. You are given multiple character “slots”, which are used much like the “loadouts” in a Call of Duty title. Each character can be male or female, and various parts of the character can be changed, such as clothing or skin color. There are also “perks”, abilities that change how you play the game, such as having a faster reload speed or extra health. Perks, clothing and even extra character slots are unlocked as you level up by gaining experience through killing other players, either online or off.

Multiplayer is broken up into three different game modes: Deathmatch (DM), Team Deathmatch (TDM), King of the Hill (KotH) and Zombie Hunt (ZH). DM, TDM and KotH are your standard multiplayer game modes; however Zombie Hunt is something unique. In Zombie Hunt, the entire level is submerged in complete darkness and the only way you can see is through a flashlight that is now mounted to your character’s weapon, allowing a small cone of vision wherever you aim. This creates a surprising amount of tension despite the game’s gritty-cartoonish art style and techno soundtrack. Once the game starts, a few AI-controlled bots are thrown into the game as “zombies”, and players are supposed to kill as many zombies before someone reaches the score limit. However if a zombie kills a player, that player then comes back as a zombie, and is forced to hunt his or her ex-team members. While this does boil down to a sort of warped Team Deathmatch, the addition of the flashlight as well as the ever-growing zombie team makes Zombie Hunt a mode that should be in more multiplayer shooters.

A standard multiplayer match begins with your character being flown in to the battle on a Pterodactyl, for seemingly no reason other than to lend to the absurdity of the game as a whole. Everyone has a jetpack and the ability to run up walls and across ceilings, so verticality plays a huge part in thinking up strategies. There are various weapons strewn about the level, ranging from shooter staples like assault rifles and shotguns, to stranger weapons like a shrink ray or An AK-47 that Shoots Kittens (this is the name given by the game, I’m not even kidding). Weapons like these paired with 10-person matches (with the ability to fill in the empty player spots as bots) and wide-open levels with labyrinthine underground tunnels make multiplayer matches hectic and fun.

Overall, ZP2KX is a fun multiplayer shooter, borrowing just enough from Call of Duty’s level-up and perk system, as well as adding its own personal charm and loads of character customization to make a truly unique multiplayer experience. I have rarely experienced lag while playing online, and finding a match is quick and painless. And honestly, for $1 how could you possibly go wrong? Go out and buy this game. You will not be disappointed.