“ Manufacturer: gamedoctors / Type: iPhone Game „
With the increasing influx of iPhone and iPod Touch apps to hit the app store, it goes without saying that the designers of these apps are having to come up with increasingly nonsensical plots, in order to whet the appetites of different gamers around the globe. From Angry Birds to Doodle Jump and everything in between there really is an app to suit everyone and Zombie Smash is the latest app on the market to reach out to the horror fans among us.
Horror movies and games have been popular for decades, with the release of Resident Evil and other such franchises that have not only taken over cinema, but also your game consoles, it would appear that the zombie genre shows to signs of slowing. The makers of Zombie Smash have capitalised on this popularity and created a clean, crisp game in which to ease your cravings for blood and guts.
Zombie Smash is available from the app store for 59p and has recently soared to reach number 2 in the 'paid app charts', almost, yet not quite knocking Angry Birds off their perch. Their reign at number 2 was short lived though and they've quickly fallen back down to number 15 within a matter of weeks. The app requires a tiny 24.7MB of your memory and is available for your iPhone, iTouch and iPad with an age rating of 9+ due to cartoon violence.
So what is it that made Zombie Smash soar in popularity over recent weeks?
As with a lot of popular apps, the simplistic value plays a big part in their popularity and that's no different here. Zombie Smash takes place in one, well presented location, utilising a simple premise and an undemanding control system. Meaning that anyone from the age of 9 can easily get the hang of Zombie Smash and hopefully reek the rewards in terms of enjoyment.
I've aforementioned the simple premise, but I haven't actually mentioned what it is. Interested? Well have you ever seen the remake of Dawn Of The Dead? In one scene, the zombies have completely surrounded all the buildings in which the survivors have retreated. One by one, they are trying to eliminate the zombies, namely by use of a shotgun. But what if you could pick them up and throw them in the air until they came crashing back down to Earth only to deposit a star for you to collect to gain rewards?
Well, that's the premise of Zombie Smash in a nutshell. Still interested? Good.
Zombie Smash utilises a dark and dreary background, which, to my surprise works fantastically and makes Zombie Smash a very aesthetically pleasing game. Graphics are all well developed, with blood and bones flying over the screen on a regular basis. However, given the 9+ age rating it's nothing for parents to get nervous about as the game really is very tame compared with console zombie games available. Through the course of the game you'll encounter several different zombies. The zombies are all created well, using the iPhone's crisp, clear screen to its advantage and everything comes off very well in the presentation department. Sound wise it's all very predictable, the smaller zombies don't tend to make a lot of noise, however, when the larger zombies appear later on in the game there are moans and groans in abundance, accompanied by a sleep-walk style march that brings a bit of a stereotypical comedy element into proceedings, which is very welcome, as if the game took on a 100% serious tone, it would become laughable and the entertainment value would quickly be zapped from the app. There's a fitting soundtrack to accompany the game, which, due to the nature of the game, it's not an upbeat track that is likely to get on your nerves within seconds. Infact, I actually quite like the Zombie Smash soundtrack.
The backdrop of the lone house that your character is in as the sole survivor (you never appear on screen) bodes well for the game as it gives space for zombies to come at you from all angles, well, left and right anyway, the games not in 3D, after all. Different zombies are introduced to you as you progress through the game, each with different attributes - some with guns, bombs, whereas some have serious attitude problems and will come at you fast and furiously, without remorse. The different zombies give the game some longevity as there are introduced gradually over the course of the game, giving you something to work towards and maintaining the freshness of the game.
The variation of the game doesn't stop there, this game actually has some sense behind it. The health bar at the top of the screen, indicates how close the zombies are from smashing into your house and turning you into one, in the most brutal of fashions, of course. It would seem that each zombie has his/her own strength, from the no frills zombies to the big ones that aren't able to be picked up. Each one does their own amount of damage. However, when your health bar does run out, there is no scene to show what would subsequently happen, only a flash to say you lost. As the zombies try to bite, punch, shoot and headbut their way into your house, the state your house is in never changes, unfortunately, which gives the game a somewhat amateur feel to it.
Control wise the game comes up trumps. You have the option to either flick your finger up the screen to throw a zombie in the air (which does more damage), or you can simply touch the screen, making the zombies fall over. The touch screen is well utilised throughout the game and things can become very difficult when you have numerous zombies on screen at once, coming from both ways. Things can get very frantic to say the least. Infact, in terms of difficulty the game is very much a challenge all the way through. There is an easy, normal and hard difficultly selection - hard being locked until you have completed a certain number of levels. You're recommended to choose the normal level, as it gains you more points and more items to unlock. Occasionally though, you may have to select the easy option and this is indicated on screen by a babies dummy, which can appear a little patronising, but it goes towards giving this game a personality.
Along the way you'll be given certain objects to aid in your eliminating of the zombies. These range from rocks, guns, bombs and even nitrous oxide. They appear out of nowhere on the screen and you must tap them to enable you to use them. This brings a strategic aspect to the game and makes things a little more interesting. Problem being, you can only store two items at a time so you have to be very careful when you use them, especially if you're facing the bigger zombies as you're unable to lift or push them.
If I had to use one word to describe Zombie Smash, I'd say, repetitive. It's the repetitiveness of the game which really takes the enjoyment out of this game relatively quickly. There is only one location and despite the variation in aids and zombies you're still doing the exact same thing over and over again. For 10 minutes of entertainment this game is great, however, it's not something that I find myself playing for long periods of time. Nevertheless, the game is very entertaining in short bursts and one that I find myself playing regularly as levels are short and don't require you to dedicate a lot of your time.
If you've ever fancied experiencing life in a George A Romero film, then you're just weird. Still, if that's what floats your boat, Zombie Smash gives you the chance to act out your fantasy, without risking having your intestines ripped out (always handy!).
It puts you in the role of Joey, sole survivor of something or other that has turned the rest of the world into zombies. You must protect your house from the hordes of zombies who want to get inside and find out what colour underwear you have on (or possibly they might just want to kill you - the game is a little unclear on plot details).
Anyway, what means in terms of game play is that you sit in your house and have to repel the zombie hordes by flicking and flinging them until they die. In early levels, this is pretty easy: the zombies are slow and tend to amble along in ones or twos making it easy to pick them off. As the game progresses, though, they attack in increasing numbers whilst new faster or stronger zombies appear, meaning you have to think about which ones you need to get rid of first.
To help you, some levels give you weapons to collect. These drop from the sky (although since you are the sole survivor, who is dropping them is another detail on which the game is not clear). These give you mines, guns, boulders and other weapons which kill the zombies more quickly.
And boy, are you going to need them, because Zombie Smash gets difficult fast. Many games give you, say, ten or so easier levels to give you chance to get to grips with the controls. In Zombie Smash, some of the harder enemies appear fairly early on and by about level 8 or 9 the action is becoming really frantic. This is actually not a bad thing and I think the learning curve is quite well pitched. Certainly, I never felt it was increasing at a pace which meant I had no hope of keeping up.
The weapons element can be a little frustrating, however. You can only hold a couple at a time, so constantly have to decide when it's best to use them to maximum effect. Worse still, use them at the wrong time (or miss your target) and you may not get any more. Some zombies can only be killed by weapons, so if you run out, you're in big trouble. This does add an element of strategy as you need to carefully weigh up when to use these precious items, but if you get it wrong, it's incredibly frustrating to have to just sit and wait until you die.
Controls are very simple and rely on the phone's touch screen. To kill most of the zombies, you touch them with your thumb (the most comfortable way to control the game), then fling it in whatever direction you want. The longer you hold the zombie, the harder the smash and the more likely it is to die straight away. To collect or use weapons, you simply touch them. These nice, straightforward controls mean that the game that can be picked up by anyone, pretty much straight away.
On later levels, the controls start to be a little limiting. The zombie hoards come in such numbers that you have no time to pick out individual targets and prioritise the more dangerous ones. The action becomes so fast and frenetic that there were times when I didn't feel entirely in control of the game. When the zombie hordes attack in serious numbers - as they do from an early stage - game play is reduced to you simply rubbing your hands manically across the screen in the hope that you will connect with a zombie and kill it. Later levels can feel like the skill element has been removed and that further progress relies on blind luck, which is deeply unsatisfying. This is certainly not a game to be seen playing in public, since everyone will think you have lost your marbles (on the plus side, it might get you a free seat on the bus or train, since no-one will want to sit next to you!)
The touch screen can also be the game's downfall, too. At times it simply is not responsive enough (particularly when trying to activate a weapon) and I have lost count of the number of times I have died because of this. Some of the weapons can also be a little difficult to master (using the gun, in particular, is tricky) and this can also result in frustrating deaths.
A further downside is that the frantic finger-flinging action puts you in serious danger of developing RSI. Certainly, I find that after a few short levels my fingers really start to ache and I can only play in short bursts.
To be honest, though, that's all you'll want to do. Although the game is fun, there is little variation between levels and it does become repetitive rather quickly. Once the different types of zombies and weapons have been introduced, there is nothing new to discover; each level is reduced to the same format: kill a certain number of zombies, get your score for that level and repeat. The limited game play soon begins to tell and from the viewpoint of both physical comfort and interest, sessions on Zombie Smash are likely to be short.
That said, Zombie Smash is good fun, so whilst I never play in more that 10-20 minute spells, I do keep returning to it. The simple game mechanics and short levels make it an easy one to have a quick play on when you have a few minutes to spare which is how this game works best.
Presentation is pretty good. Graphics are atmospheric and colourful, without being garish or over the top. There are some nice effects on the zombie deaths (limbs fall off, heads roll around the screen) but their cartoony style means there's nothing for Daily Mail readers to get worked up about (although they probably will anyway). Whilst they might not be revolutionary, the graphics use the iPhone well and are always clear, smooth and flicker-free.
Sadly, the graphics do promote a slight feeling of disconnection between the player and the game, since you only ever see your character in cut-scenes (the rest of the time he is hidden in the house which you must defend). The game never really generates a sense of tension, because you never really feel that Joey's life is in your hands.
The in-game music is superb. Atmospheric and spooky, it adds a lot to the game and wouldn't be out of place in a standard zombie movie. Other effects are fairly limited (explosions, gunshots) and slightly weedy, but mostly well-suited to the game.
A number of different modes and difficulty levels add some longevity to the game, although to be honest, these are all just variations on the same theme and it is likely that most people's interest levels will wane long before they complete all the different modes.
At the time of writing, Zombie Smash costs 59p and for that price it's worth considering. However, this is listed as a special Easter price, no indication of its normal price. Anything more than 99p should stop and make you think twice, as the limited game play does wear thin eventually.
© Copyright SWSt 2010