Back in the fifties, before George R. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the world had no idea that the zombie apocalypse was coming. Today, the zombie menace is ever-present, looming over our comics, our television shows, and especially our videogames. Zombies are an entertainment phenomenon, and when someone asks “Why?” you can simply answer, “Because zombies!”
Because Zombies is a tower defense title by DoubleSmoked Software. The objective, as in many zombie games, is to survive the zombie apocalypse. In this case, you “control” John, a man trying to make his way through a zombie infested city to the skyscraper at the center and find his daughter.
I place “control” in quotation marks because you can’t actually steer John himself nor make him swing his weapon. In each level, he stands at a predetermined spot hoping the undead don’t reach him. If they do he’ll swing automatically; this is not an action game like Dead Island, where you get to enjoy making your character hack and slash their way through a horde of walking corpses. Instead, the idea is to buy and erect “towers” to stop them from ever reaching John — though not the brick-and-mortar kind: think more along the lines of orange- and white-striped construction barricades, armored automatic machine guns and an attack dog that arrives in a crate.
Eventually, you encounter other survivors who function much like revivable towers. They cost nothing to deploy, you can direct them to stand in the way of the zombie horde and, if they fall, you can revive them for a few hundred coins. In the early levels, the game grants you plenty of time to lay your towers and traps before the zombies begin to rise from the piles outside of the battle grid. Later on, though, it’s a mad dash to get everything in place before they begin to attack. For most encounters, the game also allows you to place traps after the melee starts, so that you can react to new circumstances.
There is, however, the occasional Rush Mode levels in which you must deploy all of your traps before the round commences. Once it starts, you can’t drop any more, but you can collect money from kills — be sure to snatch it up right away since it disappears quickly — and use it to resurrect fallen comrades. Your ultimate goal is to reach the skyscraper in the distance by weaving through back alleys and under overpasses that constitute the other levels.
While the mechanics are simple and familiar to tower defense players and the levels themselves are relatively small, the area designs along with the number and types of enemies created significant enough challenges to keep me on my toes. Later levels offer tougher enemies and I quickly discovered that using the battle grid to place traps accurately was key to success. For each level it’s possible to be awarded up to three stars, depending on how well you did; one for finishing with 100% health, another for getting 5 special kills (usually awarded for quickly taking out enemies), and the last for finishing the round with more than $350. Early on it was easy for me to unlock all three stars, but as I progressed further into the game I found myself just barely scraping by with the tiniest percentage of health.
The graphics are clear and comic-based without being too cartoony. There’s just enough grit to give the comic book landscape an apocalyptic vibe. You can manipulate the bird’s eye view of each level enough to see corners that might otherwise be obscured by obstacles such as a dumpster, but you can’t rotate the level; you’ll always be looking at it from your main character’s back. The music is a good match for the graphics; it employs a particular riff that seems to be a requirement for all zombie games; menacing but not as eerie as for a survival horror title.
Because Zombies sits high up in the list of mobile zombie games. It doesn’t nag you with incessant in-app purchase options like some other games I’m happy to ignore, but it does end up getting a bit stagnant. Since all I was asked to do is lay traps and I couldn’t look at the level from a different angle, I found myself getting bored. That is not to say this isn’t a well-designed and challenging game, just that the strategy seems dependent upon replays and experimentation with different trap types. DoubleSmoked could have had more fun with the cityscape setting they chose by letting players see more of it or interact with it in some way. There are no level-up options for you or your companions, and the traps aren’t varied or comical enough to make the replays as enjoyable as they could otherwise be.
Because Zombies is set up quite well for the mobile player; it is good in short spurts. Unfortunately, this is one case where zombies alone do not make a game awesome. It needed one more layer of gameplay to turn it into an unforgettable game, rather than something that is fun for just a short while. Overall though, Because Zombies is a solid investment for those who like their tower defense games ravaged by the walking undead.
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Comic-styled urban tower defense is solid but needed another layer to make it a must-play.