Zombie Wonderland (Review) iPhone/iPod/iPad

Zombie Wonderland (Review) iPhone/iPod/iPad

What is it about zombies and iPhones?

Maybe the invasion is an allegory for a civilianization willingly turning into Pod people controlled by the decrees of the Apple overlords. Maybe it symbolizes the severance of intelligent communication between humans as eyes and ears became merely an extension of their devices. Or maybe it’s just because zombies are easy enemy fodder for game programmers who don’t have to worry about nuances like artificial intelligence.

Whatever it is, a zombie game needs to be unique and exceptionally well done to show signs of life in the App Store.

Zombie Wonderland delivers somewhat on the first criterion by making skills with a vacuum almost as important as those with a shotgun. But it’s got significant gameplay issues that may not be entirely remedied with updates.

Our hero, Chuck, is a guy trying to rid a sample town of zombies, but the townsfolk are almost as annoying as the undead – they don’t want him leaving behind blood and guts in their homes while doing so. Maybe that’s an allegory for the current mentality of demanding things like no intrusion by a government that should also magically solve resulting problems like a financial crisis or oil spill. Or maybe it’s trying to read too much into what are just a bunch of pain-the-ass hillbillies.

Chuck probably isn’t deciding between Wall Street and welfare, since he’s facing free-for-all of a more immediately threatening nature. Like any good patriot he’s got a shotgun and unlimited ammo to dispose of zombies as they close in on the house from all directions, shooting them from the windows. The view of an overhead cutaway of the house, with a rotating camera (either automatic or player-controlled) in theory offering help determining which of the undead are closest to entering. Chuck needs to survive until dawn arrives at 6 a.m. (shown by the clock at the upper left of the screen) without taking enough damage to turn his heart green.

The novelty is Chuck doesn’t become one with the zombies if they enter the house. He can still fight back if they don’t reach him, but the job is doubly difficult because he’s got to sweep or vacuum up the gore on the floor. Failing to do so results in a loss of points at the end of the level, but if you’re a gamer who cares more about survival than bragging rights this may become a lesser priority.

If Chuck merely had to defend against the undead as they close in from the four compass points, as they do initially, Zombie Wonderland would just be a ghastly version of the 30-year-old quarter-eater Space Zap. But new buildings get increasingly complex with more windows in often inconvenient configurations, new types of zombies become rather large in scale and there’s a survival mode when you complete the five stages of each of the four buildings. Chuck also has some extra assets and responsibilities. In addition to blasting zombies, he gains the ability to hammer boards on windows to impede their progress, unlock better weapons and a obtain a “Gutvac super vacuum.”

All this would make for a fun, if not iconic, game if everything worked smoothly. But it doesn’t.

Killing zombies requires the player to touch them, leaving Chuck to deal with the moving and aiming, so the bulk of the gameplay is a lot of repetitive tapping. The camera angles mean if you try to rotate elsewhere while Chuck is doing his assigned blasting you frequently can’t tell if he disposed of the creature(s), but of course it’s not practical to wait and watch. The bigger problem is controlling him when things get really hazardous. If zombies enter the house Chuck often gets confused about if he should kill zombies or move to a window in the area you’ve tapped. If he does start boarding a window you can’t tear him away to deal with the immediate threat until he’s done. Finally, the game crashed once during the title screen. No obvious reason for it, but such things always leave a niggling worry during play.

It’s common to say updates might fix shortcomings, but the problem is Zombie Wonderland has so much competition it’s questionable if the effort is worthwhile. The classic Plants Vs. Zombies is more whimsical and playable, and of course the Resident Evil titles take things to a whole new dimension for only a couple bucks more.

By Mark Sabbatini
Zombie Wonderland by Chillingo Ltd.
Platform Reviewed: iPhone/iPod (Requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later)
Category: Arcade
Languages Supported: English
Rating: 9+ (Frequent/Intense Cartoon or Fantasy Violence; Infrequent/Mild Horror/Fear Themes)
File Size: 49.5 MB

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Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
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  • Forot

    Terrific work!

  • Spady

    Hey, wonderful site you got here! Keep up the excellent work

  • Spady

    Hi guy, It sounds really good!