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Saturday Specials: Rotten To The Core

Rating 4.00 out of 5

Hey,  I finally got one of these posted on Saturday!  Today I’m going to look at games that center around what is probably one of the most popular topics in the iPhone gaming world right now – zombies.  Zombies make great bad guys, because in their standard portrayal they are mindless and slow, so they’re fun to dispatch and they won’t run away because they get scared.  Besides, you’ve got to admire any bad guy that has a fetish for eating brains.  Guess that would be the ultimate brain food, huh?

Zombie Smash

The first thing I like about Zombie Smash is that it takes the zombie game back to its Evil Dead story telling roots.  You must protect your house from an onslaught of zombie invaders, and even though you could probably just leave your house and outrun them, what would be the sport in that?  I also like the fact that while there are weapons and some shooting is involved on certain levels, this is not in fact a shooting game.  Rather, it is a “flick to defend” style game in the vein of Knights Onrush and Castle Frenzy.  The fact that it’s set in a zombie tale is a nice change of pace from most games of this style as well.  The game has three modes (campaign, endless siege and sandbox), so there’s plenty to keep you busy, and integration with the Crystal social network adds all the customary social networking benefits.

Campaign mode is a series of 31 days over which you must defend the house from wave after wave of merciless zombie hordes.  On certain days new zombie types and / or weapons will be revealed to you.  After day 7 you will unlock the ability to upgrade weapons, and after day 17 you unlock Endless Siege mode.  Sandbox mode is always available, but you can only use zombies that have been unlocked in Campaign mode.  To defend your house you flick the zombies in the air.  If you want to do more damage you can actually drag them up in the air and then back down to slam them into the ground.  You might need to repeat once or twice to fully kill a zombie.  When a zombie is dead they will release a star that you can collect to go towards upgrading weapons.  Also, some zombies will leave weapons which you can collect by tapping on them.  You can collect as many weapons as you have available slots on the left side of the screen.  To use a weapon, tap on its slot.

Look At Them Fly

Look At Them Fly

So far I’ve run into 4 different types of zombies, and even though their ultimate goal is to take you out, they all have slightly different personalities.  Speed and stamina differ, but beyond that one of the zombie types carries a gun, and another can’t be flicked, which means you must use special weapons to destroy it.  At some point the game suggests that you get used to using your thumbs to do the flicking, and I concur with that if it’s at all comfortable for you.  It’s an especially useful talent when you have zombies coming at you from both sides of the house.  Also, don’t forget to use your special weapons.  You don’t get an unlimited number of them, but you can’t keep them between levels either.  Besides, there’s something slightly satisfying about dropping a giant brick or laying down land mines in front of the zombie hordes.  Now I know what it would have been like if they produced zombie cartoons under the Looney Tunes label!

The graphics in Zombie Smash are great.  The background looks like a still from a Saturday morning cartoon, and the zombies are well rendered in typical ragdoll fashion.  I’m not normally a fan of the whole ragdoll look / feel, but it actually works here.  I also love the fact that the final kill on each level is presented video-camera style and in slow motion (though I may be partial to this because on one final kill the zombie’s head rolled onto a mine and went shooting off the screen as the mine exploded).  The sound effects are nice because they aren’t your typical zombie grunts and groans – or at least not always.  The utterances are more human like, reminding you that these rotting abominations were once people just like you.  Of course, that doesn’t stop you from killing them, but I’m just saying…  The music is quite suitable for this game.  It certainly sounds like something you’d hear playing in the background of a classic b-movie zombie flick.

I think I’ve provided a decent cursory analysis of Zombie Smash, but the reality is that I haven’t detailed nearly all the goodness that’s encompassed in this game.  This is probably one of the best zombie games available in the App Store today, and that’s quite a lot of ground to be tops over.  If you haven’t checked this little gem out yet, I highly suggest you do so.  You won’t be disappointed.

Final Verdict: Recommended
App Store Link

More Zombies?

Generally speaking I’m a fan of Pocket Monkey Games.  Sparta: Lord Of War, Champion Archer, and Fling Sling were all really fun games.  Unfortunately, More Zombies? doesn’t follow that trend for me.  I do like the fact that it doesn’t feel just like all the other 2D zombie blasting games on the market, but in the end there just isn’t enough to keep me interested.  The game has you protecting one city block for as long as you can, and while the limited scope worked in Zombie Smash, it just seems too constrained here.  It doesn’t take too much of a clump of zombies to make it impossible to move anywhere, and even though there’s a “depth” to the game (you can move towards the back and front of the street as well as moving left to right), the zombies’ reach seems to have a depth as well, which doesn’t seem fair, since you can only shoot along the left / right plane.

Guard The Block

Guard The Block

There’s an interesting selection of guns to be found in the game, but in the end the Uzi seems to be the only one worth using so far.  Thankfully they at least balance the pickups out so that I never seem to run out of ammo, so that’s good.  On the other hand, this truly is a survival shooter in the sense that you get one bar of heath, and there’s no chance to refill it at any point.  Once you’re dead you’re dead.  It would be nice if there were an easy option where you could score health pickups as well as gun and ammo pickups.  I’m also really disappointed in the lack of variety of bad guys.  There appear to only be three different types of zombies, and you get introduced to all of them within the first few seconds of the game.  The only differences between them seem to be how many hits they can take and their speed (though neither varies greatly from zombie to zombie).  Controlling the main character is a simple matter of a virtual joypad for walking and left and right buttons for shooting.  At the bottom of the screen is your active weapons slots, where you can have up to three weapons ready at any given time.  Just tap on the one you wish to use.

Graphically I was not very impressed with the game at all, especially when compared to the titles I mentioned earlier in this review.  There are certainly a lot of details, but everything feels more like design sketches the production level artwork.  I guess maybe if this were called “doodle zombies” that would be all right, but I was really looking forward to something more along the quality of Sparta or Champion Archer.  The sound effects are decent, though with only three different types of zombies the grunts and groans get repetitive real quickly.  At least you can tell a difference between each of them.  I do like the music, which is probably the bright spot of the aesthetics in this game.  Well, that and the tie your main character is wearing.  Don’t see that very often in a zombie survival game.

As a fan of Pocket Monkey Games and zombie games in general I really wanted to like More Zombies?  Unfortunately, I just could not get into it.  That being said, I applaud them for being different from the pack, and if you’re tired of the run of the mill side scrolling zombie shooter, it would still be worth your while to give this one a try.

Final Verdict: On The Fence
App Store Link

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