Discerning gamers have used just about every tool, weapon, gadget and vehicle to murderize zombies over the years. With their new iOS game Zombies and Trains, the fine folks at Dragonhead games dare to ask, “Why not the click-clacking wheels of our beloved rail system?” “Well,” you would probably respond in this hypothetical and increasingly ridiculous conversation, “because you can’t just point a train where you want it to go. Also, who are you and why are we having this ridiculous conversation?” Well, Mr. No Imagination, you don’t have to point them anywhere if you just run an intersecting series of tracks through a stadium and then put a gold painted brain in the center for the zombies to shuffle towards. Go ahead. Pick up the shattered pieces of your mind. I’ll wait right here.
Welcome back. Let’s go through this step-by-step. Zombies and Trains offers several undead locomotive-based slaying options for your enjoyment. The standard arcade mode tasks you with preventing the undead from reaching the golden brain. The tracks crisscross the stadium in a pound or crosshatch shape. You send trains hurtling towards your undead prey by touching the track. You can send multiple trains at a time, but you’ll need to be careful, because if you don’t time it right, they’ll crash into each other instead of the shambling hordes. In this mode, you’ll also have access to several different power-ups, including faster and flaming trains. I do wish that more imagination and variety had been put into these, but all in all, they serve their purpose.
For those that prefer their zombies in waves, the game also offers a mode cleverly titled “Wave.” In this variation, you’ll eliminate increasingly difficult groups of zombies. I didn’t find myself spending much time on this game type, as I didn’t really feel like it was differentiated enough from the arcade mode.
My favorite zombie killing option is the “Crossing” type. Here, you only have two parallel tracks, and your goal is to prevent zombies from crossing from one side to the other. You have to keep them at bay for 1 minute, and as the clock inches closer to zero, the intensity ratchets up. Eventually, you’re trying to stop tons of zombies at once, and the timing on your trains has to be near perfect. I easily spent the most time in this mode and found that the short game time and high number of zombies on screen made it the best “quick fix” option.
The “Slaughter” mode should scratch the itch for those of you that would prefer to set the timers, power-ups and objectives aside and just kill as many zombies as possible. Three sets of parallel tracks assist with the massacre as you attempt to rack up the highest bodycount you can in one minute. This mode is a decent distraction, but I found myself getting bored relatively quickly with no objective pushing me forward.
The game has a nice, cartoony aesthetic that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The zombies are well designed, and there is a satisfying amount of gore when they explode. The audio here is well done, too. Everything from the crowd sounds to the effects jive very well with the overall theme of the game.
My primary issue is that, at least on iPhone, it can sometimes be difficult to pick up zombies in the heat of battle. The zombies are relatively small, and as a result, they sometimes get lost behind casually placed hands or fingers. I found myself being very cautious about the way I held the phone and where I tapped each track to avoid obscuring the undead. Also, I did have some occasional issues with the game detecting taps on specific track. These two issues combined, while not frequent enough to be game breaking, did create some frustration when the action picked up a bit.
If you’re a fan of iOS games that you can play in short bursts without much investment, Zombies and Trains is a solid option for only .99 cents. Don’t go into it expecting the kind of addictive experience that you’ll play for hours on end, though. The “Crossing” and “Arcade” modes are perfect for those situations when you’re out and about with a couple of minutes to kill. Hopefully, future updates will introduce additional modes to expand the game’s footprint a bit. Even with the slim play variations, the low asking price makes it a relatively easy recommendation.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.