Arizona Sunshine 2 review: Looks like I need a dog for the zombie apocalypse

An Arizona Sunshine 2 screenshot of Buddy the dog holding a zombie head in his mouth
(Image credit: Android Central)

One of the first "real" VR games I ever played was the original Arizona Sunshine. The game did almost everything better than the competition at the end of 2016, including scripted sequences like you'd find in Half-Life, and one-liners that feel ripped straight from the best 80s movies.

It was this unique combination of elements — coupled with tight gameplay and co-op functionality — that proved to me that VR was more than just a fad. Arizona Sunshine 2 keeps all of those positive traits and translates them into a style more appropriate for the end of 2023. Plus, it adds a furry, pettable doggo companion to the mix.

In addition to the robust single-player experience, Arizona Sunshine 2 also offers a 2-player co-op mode so you can experience this campaign with another human; not just your dog. There's also a 4-player horde mode that has the potential to rival the best Meta Quest games like After the Fall.

I've been playing Arizona Sunshine 2 since just after Thanksgiving on both the PSVR 2 and Meta Quest 3, and it took me about 6 hours to complete the main story. I haven't had the chance to experience the multiplayer modes just yet, though, so I can't comment on those experiences from first-hand experience.

But the single-player experience was so entrancing that I had to interview the development team specifically regarding the magic the game's dog, Buddy, brought to the experience.


Arizona Sunshine 2

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Making me a dog person

Arizona Sunshine 2 official screenshot of Buddy the dog

(Image credit: Vertigo Games)

I'm one of those weirdos who doesn't really like dogs but don't think that automatically makes me a cat person, either. I've got chickens and rabbits, animals that are both kept outdoors and are as self-sustaining as a pet can get. One of these even gives me eggs daily, and no, I'm not talking about the chocolate kind you get from the Easter Bunny.

But a dog? To me, a dog is an annoyance I don't want in my life. They're smelly and slobbery, and I'm too much of a clean freak to deal with that. I had dogs as a kid and never enjoyed the experience, but if Arizona Sunshine 2 proves anything, it's that I should reconsider my position if we ever end up in a zombie apocalypse.

Plus, if the storyline here is anything to go by, I don't need to invest the time and effort to get one now. All I need to do is find a downed military chopper and set the little dude free, Free Willy style.

Buddy even helps add a unique stealth mechanic to a game that's not otherwise centrally focused on stealth.

In many ways, being able to play through the game with a canine companion made it feel almost as personable as playing through the game with a friend. Better yet, I can pet Buddy — that's the name of your dog in the game — and not have to go wash my hands because of smelly dog fur. It's a win-win if you ask me.

But Buddy isn't just there for petting, although you can do that as much as you'd like, even when he's covered in fresh zombie blood. You'll even be able to give him treats in an upcoming update, which is one of the first things I wanted to try in the current version of the game.

But Buddy isn't just a virtual pet; he's a brilliant mechanic who adds a substantial gameplay element to Arizona Sunshine 2. He keeps the game feeling familiar but not boring.

He's also a brilliant way to help solve some puzzles, which require you to give Buddy commands to pull zombies out of the way, fetch something in a place you can't reach, and more. Plus, Buddy is great for alerting you to "sleeping" zombies that aren't actually dead yet.

Buddy even helps add a unique stealth mechanic to a game that's not otherwise centrally focused on stealth. Most situations involving zombies in the game begin with you entering an area before the zombies know you're there. Buddy can be used to take down several zombies before your presence is made aware, helping thin the horde before it gets out of control.

And, trust me, it'll get out of control in no time.

Horde mode enabled

An Arizona Sunshine 2 screenshot of a gory pool scene

(Image credit: Android Central)

As a rule of thumb, I always try to play through a game in hard mode first to see what clever tricks developers can devise. Arizona Sunshine 2's hard mode is superbly built in a way that doesn't feel cheap or unfair. It feels realistic, and it's downright frightening.

In my interview with the developers, they told me that up to 50 active zombies can be on screen at once, all coming at you for a lovely feast of grey matter. But this isn't designed like After the Fall, despite coming from the same development house and sharing some similarities. Zombies don't just necessarily drop in one hit, although that can happen if you're good at getting headshots.

Giving Buddy commands is as simple as it gets, and you can even share command with a friend in co-op mode.

Many zombies — especially the larger or armored ones — take several rounds to eventually put down, and this is another area where Buddy's brilliant strategic element comes into play. Giving Buddy a command is as easy as holding down the B button on the Meta Quest controller (Circle on PSVR 2), pointing to an area or zombie, and letting go of the button.

Buddy can walk to an area, sit, or viciously maul any zombie in your path in order to protect you. While this mechanic feels a little too OP in the beginning, you'll soon find its limitations as you come across these larger zombies. Buddy can pin them down for a while and delay their inevitable trajectory toward you, but he can't kill them like he can a regular-sized zombie.

Arizona Sunshine 2 official screenshot of Buddy playing fetch with a zombie arm

(Image credit: Vertigo Games)

And when that happens, it's easy enough to call Buddy to your side and grab one of the two guns you can store on the pack on his back. This gives you a total of seven spots to store weapons that don't feel overly video gamey, although the two wrist "pockets" are a VR inventory staple at this point.

He helps clear up one of the biggest hurdles I had in the first game: figuring out how to select just two weapons throughout the entirety of the game. Now, I can easily store four guns — one on each hip and two on Buddy's pack — which comes in handy for a variety of scenarios you'll encounter.

Arizona Sunshine 2 official screenshot of you walking around with Buddy the dog

(Image credit: Vertigo Games)

And that's another area where the game really shines; strategy. While many of the game's scenarios feel similar enough to the first game, the change in venue from the cliffs of Arizona to a more suburban location helps add variety to the experience.

What begins as a survival game quickly turns into a cat-and-mouse chase and twists all over again. The zombie narrative has been done to death — pun fully intended — but there's something that's still immensely fun about slaughtering the hordes as you progress.

As I didn't get to play the multiplayer modes, I can't speak for them with first-hand experience, but I know that my best memories of the original Arizona Sunshine were spent with my best friend as we navigated the cliffs and mines of the desert.

What begins as a survival game quickly turns into a cat-and-mouse chase and twists all over again.

Arizona Sunshine 2 lets two players bounce through the story together; each taking turns giving Buddy commands. You'll need to work together to decide who will take control, though, as Buddy will listen to both of you, and I imagine it can get hectic if you're not a team.

Horde mode lets four players jump into the fray together in completely separate environments, throwing the team's design pillars out the window for a little mindless multiplayer fun. Now that anyone can get in on the action, I'll be jumping into these modes and testing them out, hopefully making good memories in the process.

Arizona Sunshine 2 official screenshot in a canyon at night

(Image credit: Vertigo Games)

Fans of the original will love Arizona Sunshine 2. It retains the dark comedy essence of the first, complete with excellent dialog and one-liners. There's little funnier than the ramblings of a man who somehow survived the apocalypse and has gone a little crazy without other humans to talk to.

The Quest 3 version of Arizona Sunshine 2 is graphically on par with the PC version of the original title

It's got a similar gameplay loop and mechanics of the original, including the endless supply of loot scattered along the way, plus a great new crafting mechanic that lets you scavenge loot and create the explosives you need to thin the horde.

And oh my gosh is this game gory. Gorehounds will love lobbing off heads and limbs, only to toss them so Buddy can play fetch with zombie parts. It's entirely ridiculous and a whole lot of fun, especially with a game that's this pretty. The developers told me the Quest 3 version of Arizona Sunshine 2 is graphically on par with the PC version of the original title, which is a massive testament to how far standalone VR has come.

Despite the large number of zombie games on the market, this is a must-play title for any VR gamer who wants a top-notch and highly polished experience.


Arizona Sunshine 2

Head back to the sunny desert of Arizona for another lonely romp through hordes of zombies until you meet Buddy the dog, your new best friend and fellow zombie apocalypse survivor.

Get it a Meta Quest store | PlayStation Store | Steam

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu