I could swear I've seen this exact game as a Facebook app title a few years back... Anyway, in Zafehouse: Diaries, you are tasked with guiding a band of sniveling, hateful survivors into scavenging and sneaking their way through a zombie-infested town in search of supplies, ammunition, and scrap with which to barricade out the onslaught of hungry dead. Hide too long without taking up arms and you'll have an undead army on your hands, but make too much noise blasting the dead and you'll just draw the entire town population right on you. Unfortunately, your survivors are pretty small-minded; each comes with a particular sort of person they just really cannot abide, be it a racial group, sexual orientation, or gender. Keep the party together too long and the petty annoyances will eventually erupt into inter-party combat; split the party too thin and you'll fall prey to Zed in short order. Although you get only a general management degree of control over your team (go search this building, hunt zombies around this area, whip up some vittles, etc.), there is a healthy variety of tasks you can set your party to, and careful decision-making will go a long way toward keeping your merry band together.
Along with the basic sandbox style of gameplay in which you must gather survivors up and avoid death for as long as possible, there are also two more difficult challenge modes available. In one, you must restore a car to working order and hightail it out of town, and in the other you must simply survive for a week. Both of these modes crank up the difficulty tremendously, and once you've learned how to eke a modicum of survival out of your hateful ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥s, they're fun (in a horribly aggravating sort of way).
Unfortunately, the game falls apart a bit in the area it seems most proud of. The eponymous "DIARIES" it shouts about are the prosey bits of horror the game uses to let you know how your team is doing. This is written in the first-person from the perspective of... someone? Some unportrayed member of the team no one else seems able to observe? Who contributes no labor toward the survival of the group? I guess this explains how the writer manages to find the time to scribble it all out and scrap-book in grim polaroids in discrete hourly doses.
While there are some nice touches here (injury reports result in splashes of blood covering the page, and as night falls, it becomes more and more difficult to see the page), the text gets repetitive fast, especially considering how easy it is to lose the game repeatedly and fly through half a dozen false starts. Once you manage to survive for a while, you start encountering special unique events that spice things up, but it's a bit of a trek getting past the early difficulty curve.
Zafehouse: Diaries is not without its charms, and it can be a solidly addictive time sink for a couple afternoons, but don't expect Z:D to make your list of favorites. When everything's added up, I'd be tempted to cautiously recommend it, but the Z in the title just cannot be overlooked or forgiven.
Posted: October 7th, 2013