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For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

Better than the monster mash

Product: ZombieSmash | Developer: Zynga Mobile Germany | Publisher: Zynga | Format: iPhone | Genre: Arcade | Players: 1 | Version: US | App version: 1
ZombieSmash iPhone, thumbnail 1
When little Kevin McAllister was left home alone over Christmas, the threat of conniving burglars didn't scare him into hiding under the bed. The pint-sized punk did just the opposite: rigged his parents' massive house with all kinds of tricks and booby traps to keep the thieves out.

ZombieSmash doesn't have the same feel-good ending, but it does challenge you to dissuade would-be prowlers with a variety of contraptions - they just happen to be undead. It's Home Alone meets Dawn of the Dead in this mischievously good castle defence game.

Keep the change, you filthy animal

You start by giving zombies the finger. Each of the campaign's 31 stages corresponds to a day in the month of March, at the beginning of which you're equipped with nothing more than the ability to fling zombies away from your country home. Keeping them from munching on your house's external walls is your paramount goal and as the days tick by you discover new techniques with which to keep the undead at bay.

Joining finger flicks are rounds from a pistol, a crushing avalanche of rocks, grenades, and landmines. One of the more creative contraptions sets your fireplace ablaze with such power that flames shoot up from the chimney. By flinging zombies into the flames, you can incinerate them.

These power-ups are upgradable, too. Stars awarded for every zombie killed are collected with a tap, then spent on enhancements that boost attack power and duration. Other upgrades expand your maximum number of power-up slots and barricades that add to your home defences.

Upgrade me

While I like that upgrades are available, I'm not fond of the way in which they are arbitrarily unlocked through the course of the campaign. Even when you have enough stars, some upgrades only become available after you've reached a specific stage.

Other problems have a more substantial impact on gameplay. The decision to pan the camera to the left, centre, and right of the house at random points during a stage, for example, is a questionable one. It feels like an effort to generate variety within the level, but it's not necessary when the range of power-ups and different zombies lend enough variety to the game.

Level 21 does this in such a way that zombies enter the scene right on top of your house. It's completely unfair because as soon as they appear, they're whittling away your defences. Zombies equipped with explosives can decimate your house without so much as a fair chance at dispatching them. To be fair, it's not a systemic problem but an issue with the individual level design.

Happy ending

Panning the camera serves to unnecessarily complicate things, particularly when it comes to shooting guns. Sliding a finger on one side of the screen fires when a gun power-up is activated: however, that flips when the camera shifts.

Despite the increased attack power and the extra stars awarded for kills, I found myself not using guns to avoid the dealing with the flipping controls. With so many other satisfying power-ups at your disposal, it's possible to overlook this flaw.

Generally, the overall quality of the game is such that it can be enjoyed in spite of its shortcomings. Like Kevin McAllister's crazy contraptions in Home Alone, the elements of ZombieSmash are basic, yet effective at delivering fun. Perhaps there's a sappy feel-good ending here after all.
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 17 March 2010
A well-rounded castle defence riff that livens up the formula with undead physics fun
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