Lately I’ve found myself becoming more and more pessimistic with flash games. Developers know how to write descriptions that paint pictures in my mind of huge, epic, exciting adventures, and then when I open up and play the actual games I find them to be bland, boring, inaccessible, repetitive, unimmersive, or any number of other mean words. The point is that I rarely ever seem to find a flash game that actually manages to satisfy me these days.
Most strategy flash games I play tend to get overly bogged down with tutorial text and slow pacing, and I get bored of them very quickly. When I saw Rebuild on the front page of Kongregate I thought to myself, “Oh, a strategy game about managing a town after the zombie apocalypse. That sounds interesting. I bet it’ll bore me to tears.”
Well I’m happy to report that not only did the game not bore me to tears, it sucked me in like a whirlpool.
Here’s how this works. As is explained in a text wall, zombies take over the world and you are tasked with rallying all the survivors you can and rebuilding a ruined city. You have to search for survivors and food, expand your rule and take control of more land, and constantly provide protection from the legions of zombies that regularly attack you for some slightly arbitrary reason.
Rebuild really reminds me of Civilization IV (and the other Civilization games as well, I’m sure). It has the same gameplay routine: Press “end turn.” Look at what your enemies do in between turns. Look over buildings and make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Press “end turn.” Rinse and repeat.
Some people seem to think that a game has to be visceral and have involving combat to really be able to provide a thrill, but I disagree. I spent a lot of my play time in Rebuild glued to my laptop screen, rapidly going through each turn just to see if I was going to survive. The game does a great job at keeping the constant threat of the zombie horde looming over your head, which gives you a feeling of tension even when all you’re doing is managing resources.
Another concept this game has in common with Civ IV is the variety of ways to win. You can either find a cure for the zombie plague, establish a government, or close the portal that’s bringing the monsters in. Frankly, the “establish a government” path confuses me a bit. How, exactly, does writing a constitution or whatever defeat the zombie apocalypse? Maybe zombies are disintegrated by the shining light of democracy in the same way that vampires are burned by sunlight. Say, this would make a good propaganda ad for kids!
Unlike Civ IV, this game isn’t painfully complicated. I was able to follow all of its mechanics with ease, and that may be because I’ve played a decent amount of strategy games, but I don’t think the game is hard to follow at all, even if you’re new to the genre. If you’re having problems, there’s no shame in playing on easy mode until you have the basics down. And if you find the game too easy, there are plenty of harder difficulties. I still can’t handle hard mode at all.
One concept from Civ IV that this game sadly misses is the feeling of growth and development over time. When I look at my city at the beginning of the game compared to at the end of the game, there isn’t really a sense of accomplishment there. In Civ IV you can clearly see your empire evolve and adapt over time. The only thing that changes about the appearance of your city in Rebuild is that it gets a lot bigger. I would have liked it if subtle visual changes came from each research advancement, especially electricity.
But I don’t really want to nitpick too much. All in all, I had a lot of fun with the game. I’ve beaten it three times so far, and I’m tempted to play through it again right now. If you like strategy games, you should totally click that link at the beginning of the post. I think you’ll like it too. I need to keep games like this in mind when I’m looking for more flash games to play. It helps keep the optimism going.