ATOM ZOMBIE SMASHER / Blendo Games / PC
Atom Zombie Smasher is not completely a Real Time Strategy game, but it's very close and shares a whole bunch of elements with the genre. Frantic-click RTS is not my cup of tea so this game wasnt for me, but I'm still putting it on the "recommended" list as its very well made and I can see why people enjoy it.
The game takes place in alternate-history 1961, where the zombie apocalypse has broken out in the city of Nuevo Aires (accompanied by appropriate surf rock soundtrack.) The focus is on evacuation of city neighborhoods, one at a time. The thing is, you're not gonna be able to evac everyone. There's too many zombies already, and the civilians are stupid as hell about choosing pathways to safety. At the end of every level, there's a running tally of rescuees v.s. new Zed (the zombie hordes) that were created during the mission. You keep playing different missions until one side or the other reaches 6000 total, then thats game. Each turn brings a fresh outbreak in different neighborhoods, and you have to choose which one to take on next. Neighborhoods left alone will rack up more Zed each turn that you don't attempt to evac them. It initially seems sensible to take on the easier ones first, since completing each neighborhood unlocks more weapons-toting mercenary units to deploy, but the neighborhoods with advanced outbreaks pile on more Zed to the running total per turn, and become unmanageable if left alone for too long.
Aside from having a taste for frantic-click RTS/tower defense, the other barrier to enjoying Atom Zombie Smasher is getting past the fact that it's designed for you to not win. It's like playing in a casino; winning is theoretically possible, and it happens from time to time if you plug away at it enough, but the odds are heavily weighted against you and most of the time you're gonna walk away with losses. If you insist on being able to "win" decisively after a point, or unlock every possible thing and achievement, this game is gonna drive you batshit. The goal is more to see how close you can come to not losing, and compete with others on a worldwide online scoreboard for who is the best runner-up to the zombies.
The action takes place on a one-screen city map. You start with a bunch of civvies milling around in various places and Zed coming in from various entry points to the sides. There's a short timer until sundown, when a mass of high-speed Zeds swarm in and make short work of anyone left. The goal is to airlift out as many people by helicopter as possible, but you start with only one chopper that can only hold 30 people at a time. You set the heli landing point, and just before it descends it gives off a horn blast, which sends civvies running to it, but also gets Zeds following them there. To somewhat stem the tide of undead you can also deploy various types of mercs (like snipers and infantry) and obstacles (concrete walls and land mines.) As you progress through the game you get better stuff, but the Zeds get perks at certain points too, like mutating and becoming faster.
There's no real tutorial, you're just thrown into the easier levels at the start and learn as you go. This approach still mostly works, but the deeper strategy of the game remains unclear past the point where you're expected to have a mastery of it. Complicating the difficulty curve is that it's quite possible to "win" a level but still have so many Zed infections that really, you just put yourself behind on the whole.
Despite these problems it's still an interesting little "pick up and play" desktop game for killing a few minutes here and there, for sure. When priced accordingly, its worth a look.