Zombies & Me, the pilot effort from EA Mobile micro-studio 8lb Gorilla mingles a familiar undead foe with slick touch controls and explosives. Zombies, you think all they want are your brains, but they harbor some serious anger towards real estate and are dead set on destroying Granny and her homestead. Welcome Guy, the latest in live bait.
You control of Mr. Guy, who can be moved by tapping a destination or dragging your finger across the screen. Options give you the choice between “tap” and “hold” control types, but the difference is kind of quirky. When you select “tap” you can still swap to holding and dragging to control Guy. If you have chosen the “hold” option, Guy will only follow the hold and drag direction. Both control options work well, but I found leaving on “tap” and using hold and drag when necessary to be more precise.
Throw caution to the wind and use Guy to draw zombies into the blast zone of a falling bomb to blow them to zombie bits. The objective is twofold: survive as long as possible in order to protect Grandma and her house. Granny’s home health is measured in a meter at the bottom of the screen, and she must be handy with repairs because it will regenerate with time. As you pull zombies away from the house they will occasionally overtake Guy and you must tap quickly or shake the phone to shed the brain-eaters. In practice, shaking them off is impractical since you are far more likely to be swarmed again using that method than if you were to simply tap yourself free. The only remaining foe? Your only weapon: bombs.
Guy is given military support, and while they won’t risk hitting the ground they will drop bombs aplenty – which in addition to destroying zombie hordes will also blow you to bits. As apocalypse strikes the flood of foes increases with every panic level, and while there is no direct penalty for not taking advantage of a dropped bomb the burgeoning population is punishment enough. Getting a crowd to within the blast area will cause some to stick there, transfixed by their impending doom. There is big payoff for destroying a crowd, but you can easily be “Blown to Bits” or “Torn Apart”, either way you’re useless leaving Granny to her doom and the round is lost.
Grandma’s yard is littered with large obstacles, and they add a bit of challenge to the task of guiding the undead masses to a bomb zone. What is frustrating is when bombs are so far on the periphery you cannot effectively lead the zombies there. Fortunately, the zombies find Guy pretty alluring, so if you get near them they will follow you until they are distracted again by Granny and her luscious homestead.
Points are awarded for every zombie blasted, and bonuses are piled on for multiplying the kill. What is a downer is the lack of leader boards and rewards other than the merit of a locally recorded high score. Not providing leader boards for a game centered on scoring big or going home effectively squashes the competitive spirit that fuels re-playability. There’s just something lame about having to send a friend a message to find out what his high score is, and how you stack up. The Score Highlights screen does break down your highest game score, the most zombies killed in a game, most zombies taken out in a blast, and the highest “Panic Level” survived. Also recorded is the total time played, average game length and all-time longest game.
The 2D sprites look great on the isometric landscape, and the explosions are darn satisfying, though everything is very tiny so your appreciation of zombies may cause blindness. You can customize your play list, and I’m sure you can come up with plenty of Zombie-slaying tunes, though I did think it was strange that the default setting is “sound off”. Story is non-existent and Granny’s lines of text are completely lost in the fray. I had to choose a “suicide round” just to get a glimpse at what the old broad is babbling about (mostly cookies and the neighbors). Voice work may be out of reach for the modest offering, but Granny’s discourse seems like a waste.
Somehow, the hopeless battle against the undead just isn’t compelling enough to keep you coming back for more. The controls are straightforward and smooth, the look of the game is fun, and there is satisfaction in blowing a crowd to bits but you won’t be left craving another round – especially when you don’t have perspective on just how crappy your measly 800 zombies killed is (it’s measly, trust me). A little light on features, the price is right, so if battling zombies is your thing it’s worth a buck. Zombies & Me has enough charm for a pick up and play, but doesn’t inspire the compulsiveness that will have you going back to it time and again.