Ah, the endless sea of shambling undead. Seems we never get tired of mowing them down. Maybe we’re just comforted by the killing of something too devoid of intention to be truly evil; maybe killing something that was already dead takes away the sting of conscious. Whatever the reason, the offline version of Zombies! is one of the more popular incarnations of the trope, with a whopping 11 expansion/sequels – and that’s before you consider the dice game, the card game, and the Humans! spin-off. Will the hoards shamble into the hearts and minds of iPad gamers everywhere?
In Zombies! you play one of a small handful of humans trapped amid a mob of the undead. A rescue chopper is en route. All you have to do is be the first to get to the helipad and get rescued. Alternately, shooting 25 zombies marks you as such a badass that the rest will leave you alone, thus winning you the game.
On your turn, you will draw a random tile representing a block of the city. Place this down such that the road connects, and then populate the spaces with bullets, life tokens, or zombies, as instructed. Roll for movement, move as far as you can (fighting any zombies whose space you enter). Then roll again, and move that many zombies one space. There are also event cards that let you slow down the other players or give bonuses in specific buildings.
Combat is a simple affair: whenever you find yourself in the same space as a zombie, you roll a D6. 4 or higher and you win; 3 or lower and you lose a life. If you have any bullets, you have the option to spend them to increase the roll on a one-for-one basis. You can’t leave a space before the zombie is dead (again); run out of lives, and you lose half your zombie kills and return to start.
Even for the genre, Zombies! is not a deep game. In what seems to be an attempt to give the app some extra value to compensate, the designers have loaded it down with cutesy animations (at least for grizzly undead horrors) and a slick 3D look. Unfortunately the net result is to slow down the play of what should be a fast game with unnecessary shambling, and to render the map all but unusable by cluttering it up with visual noise in no way related to gameplay itself. The 3D effects look pretty, but can make it very difficult to actually FIND anything; the dark color palette looks muddy, causing game elements to blend together rather than stand out distinctly. Zooming in and out is frequently necessary to spot the icons corresponding to specific buildings, doubly so given that about half the cards in the deck only work in one particular building in the game.
The game does offer a tutorial, and it does a pretty decent job of explaining the basics and strategy. The management of cards leaves something to be desired, but works well enough. Multiplayer is present and functional though advertised as beta; pass n play is also supported, and the game offers a few different varieties of AI and does a decent job of describing their strategies.
Hands down, this is the easiest-to-learn board game of zombie killing out there (Zombie Dice is technically easier, but there’s no board there) and can be fairly quick to play – or rather, should be. The game bogs down under the weight of unhelpful graphics and unnecessary animations that cannot be streamlined or turned off. If killing zombies is your thing, you could do worse, but if Zombies! is the game you want to play, investing in the cardboard-and-plastic version might be more fun.