At this point we're assuming you've at least heard of Zedtown, the giant human vs 'zombie' Nerf war that's toured across Australia for a few years now. We hit up the most recent game in Sydney, Last Haven, and it was while cornered by zombies in a cramped stairwell with terrible visibility that I realised those little moments made up the best part of the Zedtown experience.
If you haven't been before, Zedtown works a little bit like this: you start as a survivor, and if you get tagged by a zombie you turn. You can defend yourself by shooting zombies with Nerf darts. Zombies don't die, but if they get tagged they do have to go back to a spawn point.
That's the core gameplay, though most games come with some sort of theme that changes the way you interact with other players, and the way you achieve objectives that are often required to be one of the (usually very few) survivors.
The theme for Last Haven was a Hunger Games kind of scenario. The rich people have the last safe sanctuary left, and are offering a select few spots for survivors who excelled in the so-called Blood Games. It was a cool theme in theory, but in practice we spent most of the 'games' portion of the session wandering around a little confused and listening out for calls of 'zombie!'
We had joined up for the blue faction mainly because they had the best aesthetics, but I never actually saw our faction leader, or any blue-aligned NPCs while I was still alive. We were set faction objectives, but weren't really told what the advantage was to completing them.
Despite the general confusion around the plot, the game as a whole didn't suffer too much for it. The core Zedtown concept is solid enough to carry those little flaws.
No matter what the core theme, every game follows a similar structure.
- Act 1: teams band together, make little shows of bravado at the few early zombies and roam in numbers to get their bearings in the play area.
- Act 2: zombie numbers start to grow, bolstered by special unkillable 'boss' zombies. Groups get torn up as survival turns into more of a running game than a shooting game.
- Act 3: zombies are the majority. They roam in packs, looking for stray survivors to pick off as kills get more and more rare. Then, the endgame.
Act 2 is where Zedtown shines.
You're halfway down a closed-in stairwell, heart pounding, ears straining as you prepare to check around the next blind corner. Someone upstairs yells "zombies coming!" so you rush down the stairs, uncertain of what's below you but knowing that certain death is somewhere above you. And then you spill out of the stairs to a horrible sight -- great, open spaces full of wandering zombie hordes.
You manage to duck around, hugging walls and corners for cover, and duck out into the seating ring of the cricket ground. The seats are safer -- you can see zombies coming from further away, and dodge around chairs as needed -- but as zombie numbers grow you run the risk of being cornered.
You find an oil can that needs to be returned to your base to increase your chances of survival, but there's only one problem: your base is up the top of the stairs that were only recently swarmed with opportunistic zombies. You need to find another way.
You sneak around through the mostly quiet concrete corridors, occasionally spurred into a run as you hear the sound of thundering footsteps coming up from behind you. Maybe someone's just in a hurry, but it pays to be careful in this world.
After scoping out all your options you decide there's no other way up. You're going to have to push through the horde to get to your base, so you start gathering the scrappy remains of your faction to help you achieve this goal.
You get partway across the open space when your paltry forces are scattered by the arrival of a roller-skating boss zombie, hell-bent on retrieving the oil-can you're determinedly ferrying to an impossible goal. The hours of planning that brought you here flash before your eyes. Looks like this is it for you.
The best parts of Zedtown are the heart-thumping, adrenaline-fuelled moments of pure survival. It's a feeling that's hard to find anywhere else, recreating the tense, physically strenuous moments of your favourite action movies or zombie survival flicks. It's the experience at the core of what makes Zedtown great, and it's what keeps me coming back again and again.