Drive to survive in Gears & Guts

Gears & Guts is a new iOS and Android game from Glu Mobile. Like most of Glu’s other titles, the game is a freemium affair that is free to download but features a robust monetization strategy based around in-app purchasing of virtual currency.

Gears & Guts casts players in the role of a driver in a zombie-infested city. By taking on a series of missions, players must attempt to clear the world of the walking dead while improving their survivability by upgrading their vehicle and strapping various items of death-dealing hardware to it.

The game’s main action takes place from a top-down perspective. Player are directed to their mission objective by a large on-screen arrow, and may move their car by using either touch or tilt controls. Both work reasonably well, though touch controls allow for more precision and seem to be the better option overall. Any weapons attached to the car automatically fire if a zombie enters their range of effect, leaving the player free to focus on the driving and avoiding of obstacles. Defeating zombies either by running them over or using weapons provides the player with experience points, and leveling up during a mission automatically refills the player’s health bar.

Players acquire soft currency to upgrade their vehicle and weapons through normal play but lose everything collected in a single mission if the car is damaged beyond repair. “Revive” tokens may be purchased using hard currency to prevent this from happening, and hard currency may be purchased in packages ranging from $1.99 to $99.99. Free hard currency is also available to players via a Tapjoy offer wall.

The upgrading of items makes use of a system somewhat reminiscent of the currently-popular “card battle” games on mobile. By completing missions (and via a daily bonus), players collect various cards, some of which are more rare than others. These may then be “fused” together in order to level them up and produce more effective items of death and destruction. The player’s car is then assigned an associated “power level” according to the items it has equipped, and this gives the player a rough idea of how ready they are for a specific challenge in the game. The game will warn the player if their power level is too low, but doesn’t stop them from attempting the mission if they believe themselves to be skilled enough to tackle it.

Gears & Guts is a solid game at its core, but not without its issues. For starters, the in-game store is a real mess more concerned with flashy, eyecatching glitz than any attempt to make it navigable or easy to find specific items. Secondly, the frame rate when in a mission chugs significantly even on the high-powered hardware of an iPhone 4S, and the visuals certainly aren’t impressive enough to be putting that much of a strain on the phone’s graphics processor. Finally, during play it becomes quite difficult to identify what items are zombies that can be crushed and what are obstacles that will cause damage to the player. This can leave the gameplay feeling a little cheap and unfair at times, though thankfully the game does not feature an energy system to throttle sessions, meaning a failed mission is more a mild inconvenience than something that will cost the player money or time.

Gears & Guts is a solid addition to Glu’s strong lineup of mobile games for both iOS and Android, but it would be good to see a little more care and attention given to the graphical performance and user experience aspects of the game. As it stands, a potentially “great” free-to-play game is simply “good.” There’s plenty of scope for expansion and improvement over time, though, so the future looks bright for this fun little game.

Gears & Guts’ iOS incarnation is currently ranked at No. 215 in Top Free iPad Apps, No. 192 in Top Free Games and No. 97 in Top Free iPad Games. It is also the No. 331 Top Grossing app, No. 240 in Top Grossing iPad Apps, No. 225 in Top Grossing Games and No. 148 in Top Grossing iPad Games. On Google Play, meanwhile, Google reports that the title has been downloaded between 100,000 and 500,000 times since its launch.