Dismember yourself across America with Zombro

Zombro is a new iOS and Android title from News Corporation’s social gaming company Making Fun. Developed by Sarbakan, the game is a single-player puzzle title in which players must successfully navigate the titular zombie on a tour across what appears to be the most perilous parts of the United States. The game is available for free now via the App Store and Google Play. This review is based on the iOS version, tested on an iPhone 4S.

Each level of Zombro begins with the zombie hero on the left of the screen and an exit sign on the right, with a variety of obstacles in between. All the player has to do is get Zombro from one side of the level to the other, ideally picking up the area’s three gas cans in the process. These gas cans provide the means to unlock later levels, though after a certain amount of progression the player must unlock subsequent “level packs” via $0.99 in-app purchase.

Navigating Zombro is a simple matter of tapping and holding either side of him to move left or right. The game’s main puzzle mechanic comes from the fact Zombro is able to dismember and reassemble himself at will, with each body part having its own unique capabilities. Zombro’s legs, for example, can jump if the player taps and drags from them, while his brain may be rolled around by tilting the device. Reassembling Zombro is a simple case of ensuring all the parts are in the same place and then tapping on the “link” button.

The game introduces some of Zombro’s capabilities through a number of tutorial levels scattered throughout the early stages of the game, but a number of gas cans are completely out of reach to begin with unless various powerups and special items are purchased using the game’s hard currency of “Brains.” While figuring out the best way to acquire these out-of-reach gas cans provides a challenge to players, it’s unusual for a game of this type to make a perfect score on a level completely inaccessible from the outset, and Zombro would have perhaps benefited from a brief piece of explanatory text telling players that they will have to come back for these items at a later time.

This lack of explanation is a recurring theme throughout the game, unfortunately. The game makes use of an entirely icon-based interface, though in the case of many items it’s not clear at all what they’re for. Similarly, when browsing the in-game store to purchase powerups or clothing for Zombro, no explanation is given as to what each item is used for either before or after purchase. Since “Brains” are rather hard to come by without paying for in-app purchases, this feels like a rather underhanded method to get players to pay for their own process of trial and error — though it’s worth noting the game is at least free to begin with.

This isn’t the only flaw in Zombro, either. The game’s visuals do not support Retina displays on iOS devices, for example, which gives them jagged, pixelated edges that are completely at odds with the smooth, silhouetted aesthetic around which the game is designed. The iPhone 4 has been available since 2010, so it is surprising to see iOS developers not making use of the high-resolution display today, particularly with a game designed around such a simple, clean aesthetic.

The game has a few bugs, too. Controls are occasionally unresponsive, requiring several taps to register a press on a menu item, or occasionally seeing Zombro simply not moving at all. Some levels also occasionally fail to register as being completed even when Zombro is standing right next to the “exit” sign. And the “tilt” controls for Zombro’s brain are seemingly rather inconsistent in their sensitivity, making navigating traps rather more challenging than the developers perhaps intended.

These flaws are a real shame, as the game has potential to be a very inventive platform puzzle title. As it stands, however, it feels like development was rushed somewhat, and that the game made it onto the App Store with bugs and other issues intact. With any luck, all of the above issues may be resolved relatively simply with an update, but until that happens, this title is one to give a miss.