Pocket Gems’ Zombie Takeover for iOS provides undead fun in very short bursts

Zombie Takeover is a new free to play iOS game from Pocket Gems, Inc., available as a Universal app for iPad and iPhone. It’s a building sim with light combat elements, and is built around a Tiny Tower or Tap Pet Hotel-like mechanic of playing in very short bursts then waiting for long periods of real time for things to happen.

At the outset of the game, the player is placed in control of a zombie school. Through a series of tutorial missions, the player is introduced to the game’s main mechanics — building rooms to attract specific characters; turning said characters into zombie forms of themselves; producing food to enhance and grow the zombie army; and attacking nearby buildings in an attempt to take them over. As the game progresses, the player will gradually take over more and more buildings, allowing them to attract different types of horror-themed monsters into their team.

Building rooms is a matter of space management. Some rooms occupy a single square of the building in which they will be placed; others are larger. Running out of space requires the expansion of the building in question, an operation which can be performed either upwards, a la Tiny Tower or Tap Pet Hotel, or outwards. Certain rooms are produced almost immediately after three taps, while others take several hours to produce. Similarly, some characters are quickly turned into zombies, while for others the transformation process takes hours.

When the player has enough zombies required to assault a particular room in a building, the player has the opportunity to send their undead army into combat. At this point, a timing-based combat minigame begins. The enemy forces defending the building wait on one side of the screen, and the zombies the player has assigned to the combat wait at the bottom of the screen behind a gate.

When the gate opens, the player can tap on one of their zombies to send them into the fray. While they are engaged in combat, a small meter next to them fills and turns into a tappable button once full. Tapping this button unleashes a more powerful attack than the zombie’s usual strikes, so combat becomes a matter of quickly surveying the screen, tapping on zombies to bring them through the gate, and tapping on these “power” buttons to quickly dispatch the enemy forces before too many zombies are defeated. Downed zombies aren’t removed from the game, but they are then required to be transformed again, leading to more downtime.

The long waits involved in playing Zombie Takeover provide incentive for players to engage with the game’s monetization strategy. Items known as “Charms” are sold via in-app purchase, and these can be used in a variety of ways. They can be used to hurry building of a room, production of food for zombies or transformation of characters into zombies. They can also be used to purchase a variety of special items, including more powerful characters. They can also buy powers to let more “minion” support characters be summoned simultaneously. They can also go toward different customized backdrops for the game or more efficient “kitchen” rooms to produce zombie food. Unlike many similar games, Zombie Takeover doesn’t gradually introduce elements with long wait times — almost from the outset, the player is made to wait or pay. This includes the combat portion of the game, too — normally, players must wait several hours between attacks on buildings unless Charms are used, meaning that progression can be very slow if in-app purchasing isn’t a desirable option.

Zombie Takeover’s position in the App Store charts has fluctuated enormously since its launch. It’s pushed into the top ten on the Free Apps chart on three separate occasions over the course of the last month, but is currently languishing at No. 232. In the Games chart, meanwhile, it has followed a similar pattern, with several peaks and troughs and a current placing of No. 110.

It looks set to provide a moderately good income stream for Sequoia Capital-backed Pocket Gems, however, with placing on the Top Grossing charts both for apps and games. The title’s showing an upward trend, particularly in the iPad Top Grossing Apps chart. Pocket Gems launched a sequel to Tap Zoo 2 and a few seasonal titles during the holiday period, but it’s the first time since August that the company has released a completely new game.

You can follow Zombie Takeover’s progress through the App Store charts with AppData, our tracking service for social and iOS games and developers.