The Final Station, a side-scrolling shooter set during a zombie apocalypse, bears plenty of similarities to other games that focus on the undead. The are, of course, hordes of undead waiting to pounce, darkened, abandoned areas to explore, and a distinct lack of weapons and ammo to make everything just a little challenging. The premise is familiar, save for your occupation: You’re an ordinary train conductor caught in the middle of a zombie outbreak. You coast around the remains of civilization, exploring infested locales in search of supplies and a means to progress down the tracks, all while zombies nip at your heels.The Final Station primarily distinguishes itself from other zombie-killing games during combat, where action-focused scenes are almost puzzle-like in how you have to find the right strategy to overcome seemingly overwhelming odds with the limited tools you have at your disposal. The zombies you fight aren’t pushovers; it only takes them three quick hits to put you down, and they love to attack in pairs. Enemies exhibit specific strengths and weaknesses: for example, you can easily tackle a slow, mid-sized zombie with melee attacks, but smaller, faster monsters require bullets to the head. Because of this, combat remains challenging throughout. You can find and purchase a few weapon upgrades, such as laser scopes, that make your dangerous trek a little more manageable. But to be an efficient and effective combatant, you have to think on your feet when a variety of creeps come your way.How would it feel to head to work on a seemingly ordinary day only to find yourself caught up in a desperate fight to keep yourself and others alive as you travel through once familiar landscape now turned into a literal war zone? This is what the protagonist must face in The Final Station. The title is the latest addition to the retro pixelated movement so popular this generation. It’s also the debut title of new developer Do My Best. So, how did they do?Your mission in the game is simple: you must travel from Point A to Point B, keeping all of your passengers alive as you do so. This seems straightforward enough, considering the game is a side-scroller, but it’s easier said than done. The basic mechanic of the game is the same all the way through. On the train, you dispense food and medicine as needed to keep your passengers alive in addition to making adjustments to the train and the train’s atmosphere. At each stop, you will search every nook and cranny for money, food, and survivors. Occasionally, you will find shops. As you proceed, you’ll learn from television updates and rumors that “The Visitation” has returned, and the landscape through which you travel quickly becomes nightmarish, the terrain populated by everything from bloody bodies to destroyed tanks and skies as black as pitch. You also start seeing creatures that used to be people. They look like shadows – shadows with deadly intent.
You must fight these things off as you search for the supplies to keep your passengers alive. You can punch, shoot, or throw things at them. Ammunition is a precious commodity, so you can’t just blast your way through. You’ve got to think it over, and, thankfully, running out of bullets doesn’t leave you completely helpless since punching can work really well against many enemies. Each stop also requires that you find the code that unlocks the train from the platform so that the journey can continue.In between missions, you’re forced to take your train between towns, managing any survivors you may have saved during your journey so far. These rides are the dullest portions of the game. The train only has a few cars, and if you do manage to bring a few survivors on board, you’re tasked with feeding and healing them.
But to do so, you only need to pick up a meal from a nearby dispenser and give it to the desired survivor. The train will also break down periodically, with the ventilation system and power often going out. Fixing these issues is simple–all you need to do is spam a few button presses. You’re rewarded for every passenger that survives their journey to an intact city, making the rides a little bit bearable. But that’s not enough to make up for these mandatory, tedious treks.Despite the weak connective tissue that ties it all together, The Final Station leaves a positive impression. There are numerous dark and dreamy settings to discover–crumbling, dimly lit caverns, old train tunnels, vividly snowy villages, and flooded towns filled with corpses and garbage floating in water–and almost every encounter forces you to develop and execute a viable strategy, lest you shoot from the hip and end up as zombie food when your ammo runs out. Zombie-based games are a dime a dozen, and while it may seem the theme has run its course, The Final Station is proof that there’s life in the undead yet.