As a parent, we all have days where we just need a quiet moment to poop. And while screens can be a useful tool, variety is the key to engaging little hands and brains while seeking out a blissful bowel movement. For us, one of the best non-digital parental poop peripheries comes in the wonderful world of … STICKERS! My Little Pony and Peppa Pig are the ones my beans are currently fond of using, but they come in practically every variety a little human could possibly desire. Of course, there’s always that moment of dread, emerging from the bathroom to find Rainbow Dash and Daddy Pig stickered onto the floor rather than the assigned sheets of paper, but let’s face it, it’s worth the risk.
Recently, Big Bean and I were given the opportunity to try out Zombie Kidz Evolution, a new game from Le Scorpion Masque, designed by Annick Lobet (best known to me for designing Little Red Riding Hood from the Tales & Games series) with artwork by Nikao (who previously worked on Scorpion Masque games such as Monster Chase and The Legend of Wendigo).
The big hook here is that this is a child-friendly, co-operative, legacy style game. Allow me to repeat those three descriptors … child-friendly … co-operative … legacy game! Not only that, but this title also has a theme that tickles my Halloween fandom, which is also currently an obsession of my girls. Seems like a recipe for a home run of a game!
Let’s dig in…
Located at an elementary school, Zombie Kidz Evolution is all about four brave students trying to fend off a hoard of goofy-looking undead ghouls, by locking the gates outside of the school before the stinky monsters all make it into the building. The box contains four cardboard player pawns, eight cardboard zombie tokens, four lock tokens, a single six-sided die, a double sided board, a rule/guide book (some pages of which are filled with … STICKERS!), and a pile of numbered mystery envelopes.
To set up the game, one zombie is placed by each of the four gates outside of the school, with the remaining ones being randomly placed in a row near the board. All characters pawns being used in the game are placed in the red room at the centre of the board, and … that’s all you need to do before starting to play!
Each turn of Zombie Kidz is comprised of two steps – roll the die to place a new zombie on the board, and then choose whether or not to move your character to an adjacent room. If any baddies are in the space your character moved to, they get a big ol’ boot, where they join their zom-buddies at the back of the line waiting to re-enter the school. However, if there are three or more zombies in a room, no character can enter that space, potentially causing real trouble for our heroes. If two players can move their characters to the same gate location outside of the school, they can place a lock token, bringing themselves one step closer to winning the game. On the other side of that coin, the game is lost if a player rolls the zombie die and no tokenz are available to place on the board.
Each game lasts about 15 to 20 minutes, and regardless of whether the players win or lose, they get to place one brain sticker on the progress chart. The sticker pages also include mission trophies, which serve as unlockable achievements defined in the guide book, and can also be placed on the progress chart.
If a sticker is placed on a progress chart space with an envelope icon above it, the appropriately numbered envelope may be opened. Each envelope contains new game elements, and sometimes even more … STICKERS!
The components of the game are excellent – Big Bean’s little hands have yet to damage anything in the box, which is always a good sign. Bursting with colour and delightful characters, the artwork is pretty much perfect, and doesn’t dip into anything dark, which is impressive given the number of gruesome zombie games on the market. The rulebook does a great job of letting players jump in quickly, and the stickers within are easy enough for Big Bean to peel off and place on the progress chart. All in all, an excellent production!
Now, the box recommends Zombie Kidz Evolution for ages 7+, and Big Bean just turned 4 a few weeks prior to this article being written. I was expecting to modify the game in some way to include her in the journey, but the core game (before envelopes start getting opened) was fully in her grasp after just a few minutes. She connected with her character immediately, naming it after herself, and was always excited to roll the die and place a zombie.
I’m proud to say that my Big Bean has a very kind heart, and rather than wanting to remove zombies from the board, she would move into the same room as them for a bit of zombie play time. We would then weave a story about “saving” the zombies, which is why they left the school, rather than resorting to violence. In many instances, she had very strong opinions on where her character should move, even if it wasn’t the optimal choice for our odds of victory. We lost many games because purple wasn’t her favourite colour in that moment, and while the gamer in me wanted to win every time, letting her make independent choices seemed to be far more beneficial to our experience.
As for the legacy aspect of the game, we had a few experiences where she lost focus of the game, but the lure of being able to place a sticker at the end was enough to keep her engaged. Due to the well-designed shapes of the stickers, she knew where each sticker needed to be placed, almost always without fail. And the excitement of getting to place the sticker that unlocks an elusive envelope kept us coming back. One morning, I was woken up before 6am by Big Bean hovering over my face with a big smile … “Can we play our zombie game, Daddy?”
We wound up not using the mission trophies, as the basics of the game seemed to be just the right amount of complexity for Big Bean. After three envelopes, the added game elements were a bit too much to keep her properly engaged, and she began losing interest. However, we played a whopping 15 games of Zombie Kidz Evolution before her excitement began to fall off. Since this game is designed for a slightly older demographic, I’m certain that the added elements would have the opposite effect, keeping children glued to the game right to the opening of the final envelope.
Once Big Bean had lost interest in the game, I began introducing it to friends as an adult co-operative experience, and have also played a number of times with my wife. Zombie Kidz includes many mission goals which serve as recommendations for making the game a bit more difficult, which allows for more critical decision making, and an overall enjoyable gaming experience. Although I did not experience this title with older children, I suspect an adult may need to be present to help guide the game for players 8 and under, but could be enjoyed with a full complement of younger players above that age.
As a parent trying to foster an interest in board games with my older daughter, Zombie Kidz Evolution is, hands down, the most fun I’ve had playing a game with Big Bean. After playing dozens of games that teach turns, fine motor skills, and many other educational elements, those moments of learning have lead us to a game that was just plain fun for both of us. In a few years, I’ll likely be hunting down a fresh copy of this game to play with both of my beans, and I couldn’t be more excited for that time to come!
Verdict: Two Little Thumbs Up, Two Big Thumbs Up!
A copy of Zombie Kidz Evolution was provided by Scorpion Masque for this review.