Halloween may be over, but zombies are immortal, at least in the new Halfbrick Studios iPad and iPhone title Age of Zombies. A quasi-sequel to the platforming title Monster Dash, Barry Steakfries returns to this game in all his monster slaying glory, but in a new top down, Rambo’esque shooter full of glorious cartoon gore and a sharp, fourth wall-breaking wit.
After a brief introduction to the game’s red-shirt villain — who makes some very amusing call-backs to Monster Dash — players are whisked into the past, where the evil doctor antagonist has sent his hordes of zombies. Not the immediate past, either: it’s the Stone Age, full of dinosaurs, cave men, and modern-day zombies.
This is where the flavor of the game is set, as each level has a different type of infected creature, with varying levels of style and amusement. More on that later, though: the shooting takes priority. For this,, players use digital analog controls on opposite sides of the iDevice to steer and shoot simultaneously.
The problem with this setup is that players can’t feel where the controls are, and often find themselves hitting the wrong part of the screen, thus not moving or getting stuck. Halfbrick is aware of this, and while it hasn’t recreated the true analog stick, it mitigates this issue by actually having the controls drift with one’s thumbs. Basically, as players are playing, a digital stick that starts in the bottom left, could end up in the upper right, should the players’ thumb drift that way. With this mechanic, control of the avatar is never lost.
So what about the zombie slaying itself? Well, players are granted an infinite supply of ammunition and a basic, slow-shooting gun to take them out, earning points along the way for consecutive and mass kills. As hordes of zombies (and we mean hordes) appear through time vortexes, so will different types of weaponry. From flamethrowers to shotguns, there is a very wide assortment of weapons to pick up, with more appearing in each level. There is no inventory, so any item discovered overwrites the weapon currently equipped. Additionally, special weapons have a finite amount of ammunition.
Beyond guns, players can also pick up various explosives such as mines, grenades, and rocket launchers. These are, as one would expect, used to obliterate large groups of zombies, but are the subject of the game’s only, minor, complaint. In order to use them, players must tap an area above the shooting analog controls, but must return to the shooting control if the aim needs to be changed.
Age of Zombies has a wide variety of enemies. There are gangster zombies with guns, giant zombies, kamikaze zombies, and even, in all its glory, a zombie tyrannosaurus. Of course, that last is a boss.
There’s also a very unique health mechanic that’s worth noting. Players do have limited lives, but there is no visible health system. Unlike similar games, where one hit is death, players can actually take a number of zombie bites. It is not until they take a high number at one time (basically getting swarmed) that they die.
Age of Zombies would not be complete without some social play. The game is integrated with OpenFeint, Facebook and Twitter. Regarding the first of those, there are a handful of leaderboards for total zombie kills and the game’s different levels in survival mode (basically pick a level and live for as long as possible). As for Twitter and Facebook, these are integrated with story publishing when players finish some key objective, like killing a zombie t-rex.
The last element of merit worth mentioning is the sense of style and wit Age of Zombies comes with. While not every line is a gem, Barry Steakfries is constantly spouting out one liners that frequently break the fourth wall of immersion. Even so, many of them are very funny, referring to everything from Monster Dash to the game’s music.
In the end, Age of Zombies comes highly recommended for either the iPad or the iPhone. Of course, due to the nature of the game, it lends itself better to the larger size of the iPad. On either device, from creative bosses to gratifying game play, it’s a must-have.