The story still unfolds on a case-by-case basis governed by a tight time limit. Fail to trigger the next chapter within the allotted window and it's curtains for your play-through. Blue Castle has been a bit naughty when it comes to the timer situation: it's all-too possible to scratch and claw your way through the throng of walking husks and scrabble to the target location with seconds to spare, only to discover the clock o' doom carries through to the next chapter and an entirely different location. Instant fail.
It makes gunning for survivors on the first play-through dicey business although the blow is softened somewhat by the inclusion of three separate save slots rather than just the one, meaning reloading an earlier save erases all mistakes.
If you don't mind letting a few distress calls go unanswered in your first game there's plenty of time to mess about and explore the world. An overabundance of casinos means Fortune City is a little less special than Willamette (some areas feel like they've been copied and pasted around to bolster the world size) but even so there are some great sights to see. Locating the hidden weapon Combo Cards tells you which items can be combined with which at the various workbenches, and unlocks extra special moves when you break out the gaffer tape to do so.
Hunting down these ingredients and carrying them to a tool shed for a spot of Blue Peter-style DIY feels like a mini-game in itself,
and the joys of finally discovering a hard-to-get item are second only to the awesome thrills of unleashing the doubly-powerful end product on the unsuspecting zombie masses.
Dotted about the gambling haven are shops manned by greedy hoodlums, and for a price you can even get your hands on the keys to the various vehicular prizes found throughout the plazas. Driving survivors to safety using a sports car taken from a pedestal surrounded by slot machines is one of the game's real highlights, especially as your drive takes place inside the actual shopping malls.
The Zombrex bar cluttering up the right hand side of the screen hammers home the idea that anti-zombie medicine Zombrex governs all. Prior to Case Zero, Chuck's wife turned undead and took a chunk out of daughter Katey's arm. Every twelve hours Chuck needs to find
more medicine and leg it back to the security office where the survivors are ensconced in a zombie-free bunker to stave off Katey's transformation for another half day.
On its own the practice of securing and administering the medicine is no different to completing any other story-based task. There's always one Zombrex pen 'freely' available through one of the survivor missions and you just need to make sure you're by Katey's side at some point during the hour window. But when a bitten civilian appears you'll have to decide whether or not it's worth gambling Katey's life to drag him to the confines of the safe zone. Two bitten people means twice the dosage of Zombrex, and the only way to juggle the demand is to start earning serious dough in the casinos (through smashing up the machines or playing a few games) to buy extra anti-virals from the shops.
There is another approach and it smartly pulls Dead Rising 2's two different modes into one experience: jump into the online-only Terror is Reality games and you can gamble and win money that's then importable back into the single-player story. The online mode's obviously plenty of fun in its own right but by linking the experiences Blue Castle has smartly guaranteed a buzzing online community of zombie-killing contestants.
The game is built to be replayed. Unlocked skills and powers carry over to second run-throughs to the point where it's nigh-on impossible to do everything first time through. The psychopaths as just as amusing as the first game's batch and just as terrible to fight - especially if you haven't stocked up on guns before taking them on. Again, during a second run you'll shred through them without difficulty, but the first encounters are problematic and, we're sorry to say, fairly rubbish.