The popularity of Shockwave Flash has made it possible for amateur developers to create some pretty interesting games using its easy to use animation system. Several websites are devoted exclusively to finding amateur Flash games and posting them for people to play, while other sites include them among other content such as interesting or funny pictures and short video clips. Part of the reason for its popularity is that these games are free. There's no good way I know of to include copy protection or licensing on Flash media, and it can be ripped off a web site and posted elsewhere easily. Many of the developers are doing it just for fun, or for practice before moving on to something more serious, so everyone benefits.

Of course, this also means quality control is low and the games tend to be simple. The only reason to make them better would be to use the game on a resume or to help build a reputation. This is the intent of one Bum Lee, author of the surprisingly addictive Shockwave game Deanimator.

Deanimator is loosely (very loosely) based on the H.P. Lovecraft story Reanimator, about two medical students at Miskatonic University in Arkham, who seek to find a way to reanimate corpses. Actually the game is pretty much based on one specific scene from the story, in which the narrator's companion empties all six bullets from a revolver into one of the corpses who unexpectedly crawled out of its grave and showed up at their lab.

Based on this one event from the middle of the story, Bum Lee has built a simple game in which a thin, bespectacled, large-headed, scrawny scientist-type silhouette is holding off an unrelenting advance of dozens upon dozens of zombies. The entire game is shown in silhouette, with a background of gravestones and leafless trees and three types of silhouetted zombies, against a backdrop of various colors from red to purple. The scientist is unable to move forward or back, and can only stand in place firing his weapons to prevent the zombies from reaching him.

There are three types of zombies in the game. One kind is large and beefy, likely based on the specific zombie (a black amateur boxer) that was shot in the original story. In early levels, it takes three shots to kill it. After level 5 it takes four. This zombie shuffles along slower than the other two. When they show up three or four at a time, they can be very difficult to kill before reaching the player, since they take so many shots to kill that the player will have to go through three or four time-consuming weapon reloads.

The second type of zombie has a badly decomposing head. This one walks faster than the beefy zombie, but only takes two shots in early levels and three in later levels to kill. Shooting its head will sever it from the body. Although this counts as two hits, it will not suffice to be the final hit which kills the zombie. Shooting the legs will make it fall over.

The third type of zombie has only one arm, with the hand severed off at the wrist. It is also a fast walking zombie that takes 2-3 hits to kill. Shooting the arm will sever it from the body, and like the second type this counts as two hits except that it will not count as the final hit. Shooting the legs will make it fall over.

All the zombies rise up from the ground, stagger to their feet, and march relentlessly toward the player. Shooting them makes them stagger a moment, buying precious seconds. If the player manages to shoot them before they have come completely out of the ground, one shot will suffice to kill them. Unfortunately, some of them rise from the ground off screen. Additionally, if the player trips the second or third type of zombie by shooting the legs, one shot while it is on the ground will finish it off. The running total of zombies killed is displayed in white numbers at the top center of the screen.

The player begins the game with a revolver. Shooting the zombies is a matter of clicking on the zombie's head, torso, or leg. When all six bullets have been expended, another click will make the character reload, a frustratingly slow and time-consuming process, during which the zombies creep ever closer. Fortunately the player has infinite ammunition for the revolver, and it is often a good idea to waste the last one or two bullets to force a reload during a break in the action. Eventually, the player will receive the message "Found Shotgun" after killing a zombie. Pressing the shift key will switch weapons after this happens. Occasionally, the message "Found Shells" will pop up after killing zombies once the player has the shotgun, indicating the addition of four shotgun shells to inventory. Although the shotgun holds four shells at a time (compared to the revolver's six) the shotgun will kill any zombie in one hit, with one aggravating exception.

The game has a strange bug in which the fourth shell loaded in the shotgun will never hit its target. The first three work fine, but that fourth shell will never hit anything. This effectively reduces its payload from four shells to three, a critical hinderance when weapon reload times are such a major factor in game play. Added to the fact that the shotgun's reload time is so long that a zombie can walk halfway across the screen before the player is ready to fire again, this can easily lead to the player's death on later levels. I have e-mailed the author to tell him about this.

Whether the player is using the revolver or the shotgun, the amount of ammunition remaining in the weapon is displayed at the top right of the screen. Since the shotgun does not have infinite ammunition, it also displays how many shells are left in the character's inventory.

The zombies advance in waves. After a certain number have been killed, the level ends with the message "Level Clear" and the player has a brief break in the action. The game waits for another click before advancing to the next level, with more zombies that come out of the ground more frequently and attack in more dense packs, making managing reload time more and more critical.

At the beginning of the next level, the player holds the revolver, whether or not he actually had the shotgun last. The revolver is refilled automatically, but the shotgun is not. If you're quick, you can often tell when there is only one zombie left and hurry to reload the shotgun before the level ends. It will become too late to reload the shotgun when the "Level Clear" message comes up, since clicking to reload will actually just pull up the next level instead.

This game is a bit like the old video games from the early 1980s in that it takes a simple but challenging concept and throws the player into an infinite number of increasingly difficult levels. Its replay value is excellent, being pure fun up to about level 10 and very challenging after that. The long reload times force the player to make every bullet count, trying to put off reloading until it's safe to do so. Eventually, the zombies will kill you, but the running total of kills at the top of the screen encourages you to see how much farther you can get next time.

Thanks to metalangel for a correction.