“ Genre: Shooter / Publisher: Triniti Interactive Limited / Platform: iPhone „
Oh no! Earth has been taken over by zombies and only Crazy John can save it. Taking its cue from the classic arcade game Gauntlet, the titular mad one is trapped in a maze surrounded by unlimited numbers of hostile zombies. In order to complete each level, John has to achieve a number of simple objectives (reach a certain point on screen, survive for a set period of time, kill a specific number of zombies) and so on, before he moves on to the next level and new challenges.
This simple concept translates into some great gameplay, although it has to be said a certain amount of patience and persistence is required. Crazy John can be quite tricky at times and it's easy (particularly on the first few games (to be overwhelmed by enemies. The difficulty level is set pretty high from the off and some gamers may struggle to clear even the earlier levels.
Thankfully, it is pretty addictive and each time you almost (but not quite) complete an objective, you will immediately hit Try Again to have another go; although frustratingly, if you fail a level, you have to start the whole thing again from scratch. This means that if you fail a level on the very last objective, you have to go right back to the start of that level and replay all the objectives you have previously completed. Thanks to the tough difficulty level, this can mean that you end up playing the same bits of some levels again and again, which can wear a bit thin after a while.
Crazy John is a definite stress reliever. It's great fun to stand there and strafe zombies until they finally die. Thanks to the high difficulty level (did I mention yet that it's quite difficult?), there's a lot of game time in this little title. I've been playing it for a good old while now, and I still haven't got to the end of it. Although I sometimes find myself getting really annoyed with it and putting it away, it is a game that I return to again and again, determined that THIS time I will get off that level that's been troubling me. The balance between fun and frustration is a fine one but Crazy John gets it right... most of the time.
The action can become very frantic and induce a genuine sense of panic in the player. On the objectives where you have to survive for a certain amount of time, for example, things can get really tense as you can see the clock ticking down towards zero and salvation... but you also realise that your energy is almost gone and hordes more zombies are closing in on you.
Graphics are deliberately blocky and retro-looking, with an overhead perspective. All the characters have square heads, making them look like they are made of Lego or the illegitimate offspring of Frankenstein's Monster. This gives the game an unusual look, but also marks it out as something a bit different.
John himself exudes lots of character; his baseball cap and shades scream "cool hero", whilst the zombies look suitably green and scary, despite being square! Had the designers tried to give the game "normal" graphics, they probably would not have been half as effective. The overhead view gives the player a clear perspective of the play area, making it reasonably easy to spot where the enemies are coming from, and identifying items that can help you (blowing up fuel supplies burns several enemies at once; ice freezes them).
A series of well realised in-screen cut-sequences advance the storyline and present your objective for these levels. There is a real sense of humour to some of these, as John banters with his colleagues and they goad each other into killing more and more zombies. Again, these give the game a greater sense of fun and character, adding to the storyline. It feels as though your mission is part of some wider operation and that you are playing a small, but crucial part in ridding the world of zombies.
Sound is exactly the sort of thing you would expect. Tunes throughout the game range from very good to passable, with none fall into the "ear-bleeding" category which is always a relief! Effects are pleasantly beefy: blow up a fuel dump and there's a satisfying explosion, whilst the meaty thump of some of the more advanced weaponry you can pick up is also a lot of fun.
What will make or break this game are the controls. The game employs twin stick controllers which, if you've never experience this method before, take a bit of getting used to. Essentially, you have two virtual joysticks on screen. The one in the bottom left controls your character movement; the one in the bottom right controls the direction you fire in. It's initially confusing, as you expect your gun to fire in the direction you are currently facing, when in actual fact, you can shoot in any direction, whether you are looking that way or not. On my first few games, I repeatedly found myself shooting in completely the wrong direction and taking some serious damage before I sorted myself out! As with so many other things in life, though, practice makes perfect and if you persevere, the controls will quickly become second nature.
Once you master them you will find them highly responsive and discover that you are able to fight your way out of some pretty tight corners (essential, since the game is unrelenting and throws massive numbers of enemies at you.) The virtual joysticks are well designed, and although quite large, do not obstruct your view of the game area or otherwise get in the way. Their large size also means that you can sit your fingers on them comfortably, without worrying that you are pressing the wrong part of the screen - a common issue with many iPhone games that employ virtual joysticks.
My initial impressions of Crazy John were not that good. The high difficulty level means that some people will instantly be put off; and I certainly found my first few goes to be both short-lived and incredibly frustrating. However, once you have mastered the controls and picked up some basic tactics, things become a little easier (though never too easy!) and a lot more fun.
With a download cost of only £1.49, it's not the cheapest shooter on the iPhone, but it is a fun little game with plenty of challenge and long-term playability... providing you have the patience to get to grips with it.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2011