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Zombie Drop (iPhone application)

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1 Review

Developer: Stacey Bennett / Type: iPhone Application

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      07.03.2012 17:45
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      Advantages

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      Get Angry Birds instead

      Oh No! Your neighbourhood has been invaded by zombies (or, more accurately, a single, solitary zombie). Once again, it's up to you to save the world from Zombie infestation by killing it.

      Curiously, rather than seeking to hunt you down and feast on your brains, this particular zombie has chosen to balance precariously on a pile of boxes. This makes life much easier for you to kill said zombie, as you simply have to remove the boxes one at a time so that the zombie falls onto a metal ledge. Once he's there, you can apply a good old-fashioned zap of electricity to send him to zombie hell and proceed to the next level.

      From the description of Zombie Drop, I expected a puzzle game on the lines of Angry Birds, and it's clear that Zombie Drop wants to be considered in those sorts of terms. It's a physics-based puzzle game which requires more on brains than brawn and fast reactions. Each level requires you to work out exactly how removing one box will impact on the others and work out the best and quickest way to get Mr Zombie to that metal ledge, Unfortunately, Zombie Drop never comes close to emulating the fun, frustration and addiction of Angry Birds.

      Let's start with the good stuff first, though. Presentation, although relatively basic is pretty atmospheric. True, the whole game smacks of a simple Flash-based game that's been ported across to the iPhone, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The simple, cartoon-like graphics are effective and well-suited to the iPhone's small screen. Backdrops are well-drawn and suitably spooky with old haunted houses lurking in the background and the colour scheme is easy on the eye, making everything stand out. The zombie himself has a lot of character and at times you feel almost guilty killing him off(although it might have been nice if it had changed from level to level, rather than always being the same one), whilst the various blocks and boxes you have to explode are well defined.

      Sound, too, is minimal, but still pretty nifty with a good rendition of a tune nicked from a well-known horror film looping constantly in the background which generates exactly the right kind of atmosphere. Your zombie victim emits the occasional groan as you might expect, and there's a satisfying "zapping" sound when you finally get the pesky zombie onto the right platform and apply the electricity.

      Of course, achieving that is often quite tricky, due to some well-designed levels. In order to get the zombie onto the metal bar, boxes must be destroyed in a particular order (done by touching the box you want to explode). As more and more boxes are destroyed, the zombie teeters precariously and exploding the wrong box at the wrong time can send everything tipping the wrong way, meaning that you have no choice but to restart the level. Later levels also introduce boxes with different properties (ones filled with air, for example, rise up into the air if there is nothing to weigh them down). This means that you have to approach each level very carefully, thinking about the consequences of exploding each box and work out the correct sequence. Clever level design means this is often quite challenging and you do get a real sense of achievement when you finally manage to complete a level which has been defeating you for ages.

      Unfortunately, there are quite a few negative points which prevent this game from being in the same league as Angry Birds. Chief amongst these is a pointless gameplay mechanic which, from the player's point of view serves no purpose other than to annoy. When you have finally got your zombie onto the metal, you have to touch all other remaining boxes to destroy them before you can apply the electricity. This is completely pointless - you don't score extra points for destroying these boxes - so why make you do it? Surely from a gameplay point of view it would have made more sense to reward players for completing a level in the fewest moves possible, not punish them? I suspect it's due to poor coding on the programmer's part, that they came across a bug that they couldn't resolve (the electricity couldn't be activated whilst there were still blocks on the screen) and so decided to make it into a "feature" instead.

      There are also severe question marks over the game's appeal both in the long and short term. In theory, there is a lot of challenge here - there are several worlds, each containing multiple levels. However, whilst the pattern of the blocks differs from screen to screen, the basic gameplay never alters and it's not long before the game starts to become rather tedious. After a while, you stop thinking about the best way to solve a problem, and simply resort to pressing the boxes to see what happens and working out the solution based on trial and error, rather than any kind of skill element.

      There's never really any sense of excitement or tension behind the game, either. In Angry Birds, you invest yourself emotionally in the game - you resent the pigs laughing at you when you they sit safe behind their walls; you cheer when you finally destroy that last awkward one that's been bugging you for ages. You don't get that same feeling with Zombie Drop, because there's no real sense of pressure. There's no time limit for completing a level, you can have as many goes as you like to try and beat it and, if you have the patience, you will work your way through it.

      Unfortunately, you quickly find yourself playing by rote and not really having a great deal of fun (which rather defeats the object of a computer game). After just a few levels, I was finding myself rather bored with the whole thing, and whilst I have played it a few times since I downloaded it, it's only a title I return to when I'm bored of everything else on my iPhone; even then, I'll only play it for short period before turning to some other form of entertainment.

      Even if you do find enough entertainment in it to play through all the levels, it's very much a one-play affair. The lack of any kind of scoring mechanism means that once you have beaten a level it's unlikely that you'll ever go back and play it again, since there are no secondary challenges. In Angry Birds, for example, the first challenge is to beat a level; then once you've done that you can go back and try and achieve three stars. Zombie Drop lacks that and so simply becomes a mechanistic process of beat one level, move onto the next and repeat. Whilst there is some satisfaction in this, it doesn't offer the same feeling of achievement as other games.

      Zombie Drop is a simple little iPhone game that is desperate to be the next Angry Birds. Unfortunately, it falls well short of those high standards - there are just too many gameplay annoyances for it even to come close. It's not particularly addictive, pretty dull and repetitive in the short term and lacking in little long-term playability. At £1.49, you can't even say it's the cheapest of this type of game available. There are better games out there at a much better price and it's hard to recommend Zombie Drop.

      (c) Copyright SWSt 2012

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