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Better Dead than Playing This
Dawn of the Dead (iPhone Game)
Member Name: SWSt
Dawn of the Dead (iPhone Game)
Date: 05/05/11, updated on 05/05/11 (57 review reads)
Advantages: Classic Gauntlet/Alien Breed style gameplay, looks quite good
Disadvantages: Genuinely painful controls, tedious and repetitive gameplay
The reason for excitement was that Dawn of the Dead (based on the 2004 Zach Snyder remake, rather than the George A Romero original) looked like it could be an excellent film-to-game conversion. Recalling the look and style of one of my favourite Amiga games - the classic Alien Breed series from Team 17 - this seemed to offer the prospect of battering, shooting and generally killing as many zombies as possible from the safety of your own phone.
The game is based around a series of levels set in various locations taken from the film. In each you must complete an objective (get inside the mall, find other survivors etc.) whilst fending off large numbers of zombies. Scattered around each level are various helpful items (new weapons, health packs etc.) which can be collected to help you in your battle for survival.
Initial impressions are actually quite favourable. Presentation on the opening screens is good, invoking the film's poster. A choice of up to three different characters is available, each with different strengths and weaknesses to suit your style of play (some are stronger, some faster etc.)
The graphics are also pretty good. The action is viewed from a top-down perspective (which is what helps to give it that Alien Breen look) and the play area is neatly defined with various obstacles which you need to avoid. Zombies are well drawn and again have different characteristics (some are faster than others, others take more hits to kill) which adds a bit of graphical variety and some strategy as you have to decide which of the marauding hordes poses the greatest threat.
Sadly, the main character is rather poorly animated. When you turn your character around, it looks like one of those plastic toys where you swivel the torso to make it face a different direction, whilst the legs remain static. This is just plain stupid and destroys any sort of spooky atmosphere, as you will be laughing too much at the stupid animation.
Sound is adequate, but no great shakes. A suitably creepy tune plays throughout the various levels, but this quickly becomes dull and repetitive. Otherwise sound is pretty much limited to the occasional growl from the zombies and the thwok of your baseball bat/bang of your gun as you use the various weapons you collect.
What really kills the game, though, is that the difficulty level is also set way too high. Even on the first level, you will find yourself surrounded by zombies and it's all too easy to get backed in a corner, unable to escape and with little left to do but fight as hard as you can until you die. Even once you know the layout of the levels and where there are a few safe(r) spots, it doesn't get any easier and the frequency with which death comes is very frustrating.
The game is not easy on the hands, either, and in the unlikely event that you enjoy this game and play it lots, there is a very real risk that you could end up developing RSI in your fingers. To hit the zombies with the default weapon (a baseball bat), you need first to ensure you are facing the right direction (no easy task), and then swipe your finger across the screen. When surrounded by dozens of zombies (as you frequently are) you must constantly and manically swipe the screen to stand any chance. By the end of the first level, my fingers were really hurting and the discomfort caused by the unwieldy controls quickly negated any enjoyment I might have got from the game. True, things get a little easier when you pick up a gun, but once this runs out of bullets, it's back to the baseball bat and pain city.
The controls are also quite slippery to use. Your character is controlled using two virtual joysticks. The one on the left controls movement and is quite responsive and easy to use. It's the one on the right which causes the problem. This controls which way your character is facign (and hence which way you shoot or swing your bat). In the heat of battle surrounded by zombies, it can be very difficult to see which way your character is facing making attacking enemies a highly frustrating experience.
Coupled with this, the gameplay rapidly becomes repetitive. Levels often boil down to little more than negotiating some sort of maze and finding the entrance/exit before the zombies overwhelm you. Each level essentially amounts to the same thing - run around trying to find the exit, run away from or fight zombies and repeat. There's little variety in the gameplay and little to keep your interest up. Combine this with the high difficulty level and most people will give up long before they get anywhere near completing the game.
I was really looking forward to this update of the classic Alien Breed gameplay, but excitement soon turned to despair at what is a very poor implementation. Even at just 59p I couldn't recommend it and it was quickly deleted from my phone to make way for other, more worthwhile purchases.
© Copyright SWSt 2011
Summary: Leave it buried in the App Store
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