Ubisoft‘s point-and-click Dawn of the Dead rip-off originally came out for the Amstrad CPC in 1986, and this ZX Spectrum version followed four years later, in 1990. It was converted by a three-man team: Geoff Phillips, Colin Bradshaw-Jones, and S. Chance and is a faithful recreation of the Amstrad original, with the same clunky controls and zombie-bashing combat.
You take individual control of four different characters and must secure your position in a shopping mall, clear out the zombies, and take off in your helicopter to beat the game.
Using the keyboard you control an arrow cursor and must use it to move around, manipulate items, and dispose of The Living Dead when they confront you (which is often).
What is good about this conversion – over the original version – is that there are fewer icons to interpret and deal with, which makes playing the game easier. That said: when you’re under pressure it can be tricky to position the arrow pointer where you need it to be, to click on either an attacking zombie, or a small object on the background, but the game is reasonably forgiving when it comes accuracy.
Where it’s less forgiving is when using weapons. Holding a weapon is not enough to activate it – you must first click on the ‘use’ icon to make a gun active, which can confuse first-time players.
It still blows my mind that Ubisoft‘s first ever game was an unashamed, unlicensed* copy of the late George A. Romero‘s classic zombie film, and Zombi does actually follow the plot of the film quite closely in places, but as a fan of Romero‘s work (in particular his zombie films) that is part of the appeal – to me at least. When I first saw this game I was intrigued to play it, and when I finally got to I was a little disappointed. To avoid disappointment yourself it may be better to play the Atari ST version over the 8-bit versions, as it uses mouse controls (which is more appropriate for this kind of game).
* = I don’t know for sure if Ubisoft actually obtained a license to use the name “Zombi” (the European title for Dawn of the Dead, in non-English language-speaking countries) for their game, or copy the plot of Romero‘s film, but I have a strong suspicion that they didn’t. I’d like to know the truth. If anyone knows anything about this, please let me know in comments. I think enough time has passed to discuss this without prejudicing ourselves!
More: Zombi on Wikipedia