I'm really feeling it!
I'm really feeling it!
Illustration for article titled Visual Novel Review - I Walk Among Zombies Vol. 1

Finding a good story about humans dealing with a zombie apocalypse feels like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It’s hard to come up with original ideas I feel because zombies are extremely basic. Even trying to put a spin on the nature of the zombies, doesn’t make them feel much fresher because it’s still a zombie with a different coat of paint. This is why I love zombie stories that focus on the human survivors who have to adapt to a world that is actively deceptive and trying to eat them alive. This story, “I Walk Among Zombies”, is half the needle I was looking for. The other half got lost in the haystack.

I Walk Among Zombies is what’s known as a Kinetic Novel, it’s a type of Visual Novel that lacks choices and branching paths. It’s a single, straight, story from start to finish, you’re just along for the ride. Which is completely fine, most novels are this way unless you specifically pick up a Choose Your Own Adventure book and Visual Novels are no different. The lack of choices or actual gameplay doesn’t at all hinder this... I hesitate to call it a game, but technically that’s what all Visual Novels are. If anything it ratchets up the tension because you have no control over anything and you’re just left waiting to see what happens, good or bad.

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The main conceit of the story is that a young man, Yusuke, awakens after having been asleep for days. He finds a healing bite mark and scratches on his right arm and that the world has fallen into chaos as a virus spread across the globe, turning humans into man-eating zombies. However, Yusuke is unique. Rather than turn into a zombie like everyone else, he survived the virus and as a result the zombies identify him as one of them despite his heartbeat. This allows him to move about freely, doing as he pleases, without drawing their attention. And so the story begins.

As interesting as the premise is, I can’t help but feel like I’ve heard it somewhere before. It also comes with the problem that because the protagonist is ignored by the zombies no matter what he does to them, scenes involving him tend to lack tension unless another human is involved. In other words, the apocalypse itself means nothing for him. It doesn’t help that the character himself is largely unconcerned or bothered by any of this. He pokes and prods, tests, he just handles everything cold, logically, calculatingly, as if he’s been there, done that, and seen it all. In the end, Yusuke is more of a vehicle for the reader. As much as you can disagree with his mindset and actions, you’re along for the ride and learning as you go just like he is, you probably just don’t care for him personally.

On the other hand, however, is the other human characters. Written with much more emotion and vulnerability, thanks to the fact that they’re actually scared of this apocalypse and are not ignored by the monsters outside, they are far more likable and believable. Yusuke comes off as completely detached, while everyone else wishes their lives could return to how they used to be, something that will never happen.

Illustration for article titled Visual Novel Review - I Walk Among Zombies Vol. 1
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What this story does best is it’s atmosphere. The imagery, both the backgrounds and what the words on screen conjure up, are disgusting, brutal, cold, and very real. The zombies sound like anything, but clowns. They are fast, they are deformed and soaked in blood and gore, and they will tear any living person limb from limb. I almost feel like you’re lucky if you’re entirely consumed. Because if not, you come back as one of these shambling corpses that lives only to feed on the living. Meanwhile the survivors are left to fear the darkness, fear what they can’t see and might not hear. But they’re also left to fear, distrust, and covet one another. Their sanity slowly fading. All of this makes this story very unsettling at times because it adds this sense of “This is what would really happen amongst a group of survivors in a zombie apocalypse. No one is safe, not even from each other.”

Now, so far I have largely praised the atmosphere of this game, and the overall story is an enjoyable read along with characters that you hope nothing bad happens to. But there’s a reason I said it was only half the needle, and that’s because the other half broke off and got lost in the haystack known as “eroge.” Yes, I Walk Among Zombies is an erotic visual novel, and unfortunately that is its core. I swear I came across at least one erotic scene every half hour. Now, I knew what this game was going into it. It’s not why I started reading it, much the same as Fruit of Grisaia, but unlike Fruit of Grisaia which does it sparingly depending on the girl and to much greater effect, I Walk Among Zombies does it because it can and it paints the protagonist as a horrible lech. One of his biggest complaints after learning that the world has ended... is that porn no longer exists. So first thing he does is... fuck a flawless looking zombie. It disgusted me, but at the same time I couldn’t shake the notion out of my head that realistically there would be someone on Earth that would do this because one of the first things to go at the end of the world is morals. I just wish it wasn’t the main protagonist that was doing it and I wish it wasn’t so graphically described AND visualized. I ended up clicking my mouse repeatedly to get through the scene as fast as possible because I just was not interested and I had to do that about two more times, for this one character.

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It gets worse from there because the next and last character in line... is a high schooler surviving with her two younger brothers alone. Her age is never stated, just that she’s still in school. So for all anyone knows she’s 18, but the story never tells and that just makes every scene with her even more distasteful, especially since it’s a business transaction as the story describes it. She does sexual favors for the MC as long as he continues to provide them food and protection. It’s a fucked up relationship, and yet, again, it’s entirely plausible within the realm of doomsday. It makes it work, but that doesn’t make me any less disgusted. If it had been a story beat that it explains happens between them, I could accept that more, but instead it’s turned into erotica here and that’s what unsettles me the most. And then of course it unlocks all these scenes in a gallery that you can access from the title screen for repeated viewing.

(Update: While this game, Volume 01, does not state the characters ages, Volume 02 does feature an opening warning about the sexual content and makes the clarification that all characters engaged in these acts are 18 years of age or older. While this makes the scenes slightly less disturbing, it doesn’t change the fact that Yusuke, the protagonist, is a grown man somewhere in his 20's while Mitsuki is stated to still be in high school, or rather was prior to the outbreak, which is typically still frowned upon to an extent.)

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So I’m going to call out the developer, Seacoxx, because while it’s based on a web novel(Which I have not read.), the web novel probably doesn’t make it as erotic as the game portrays it. I could be wrong, and I will admit to it if I am.

I Walk Among Zombies has a lot of potential. It is a great zombie story, it is a great window into a world where human decency has lost its meaning and its every man, woman, and child for themselves. I live for this kind of dark look into the world. What I don’t want, is a porno. Ultimately this story tries to do both and I really feel like it needs to just let the eroticism go, but I know it doesn’t because there’s two sequels. And you better believe I’m going to read both because as disgusted as I am, I’m still entranced by the darkness, and I’ve started this journey so I might as well see it through to the end.

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If you wish to wade into the world of “I Walk Among Zombies” it is available on Steam, completely uncensored, for $14.99. There is no censored version in existence if you had hoped to avoid the erotic content or lessen it. As of this writing, Vol. 2 has been released in English on Steam as well, while publisher Denpasoft has licensed both the Vol. 0 Fandisk and Vol. 3, however neither currently have release dates. To my admittedly limited knowledge, the story continues past where Vol. 3 leaves off, however no Vol 4. has currently been announced.

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