App Reviewed on: iPhone 4s
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Shelter is a single-player, story-driven card game that asks players to survive the zombie apocalypse. With a great comic book style presentation and solid card game mechanics, Shelter is a great experience despite a few notable flaws.
The very beginning of Shelter‘s story mode sets up a fairly unsurprising, but effective, zombie narrative. The main character is trying to find someone and must make whatever necessary stops to resupply or defend himself as necessary. The very beginning missions are all meant to teach players how to play the game, but then things quickly splinter off to allow players to complete side missions for extra gear or survivors.
Upon undertaking a mission, players see the game board, complete with a display of action points and menus to look at both their hand as well as that of their opponents. To play the game, players should imagine they have taken “shelter” within some sort of building, as zombies must break through structures like wooden doors to begin attacking the player character.
While the zombies try to break through these barricades, players can spend action points (AP) to play cards from their hand or use items already played on the game board. These items are usually guns, but players can play all sorts of other cards directly from their hand like short-range weapons, fortifications, power-ups, or even cards that change things like the amount of AP available per round. The objective of each encounter is to kill all the attacking zombies, while also fortifying defenses as necessary to prevent zombies from breaking through and doing 50 points of damage to the player character.
This task seems simple enough in the beginning of the game, but Shelter quickly ramps up its difficulty such that players have to make tough strategic decisions about when to play which card to ensure survival. Players find themselves gaining new cards and gear as they progress through the game, which then have to be selected through a deck customization menu before each mission.
The card gameplay and comic book aesthetic makes progressing through the game feel like playing Magic: The Gathering through an issue of The Walking Dead. Unfortunately though, this mashup would be much more compelling if there weren’t problems like a progress-halting bug and slow-ish game progression.
To explain, Shelter broke on me a few times by apparently thinking that I had two fingers on screen when I did not. This resulted in every in game action being read as a “pinch-to-zoom” maneuver, and the game did not fix itself until I forced a restart. Perhaps the game felt slower than normal because of this bug, but regardless, consider this a fair warning.
That being said, Shelter still offers enough as a game concept with solid core mechanics that I would easily recommend it as a satisfying turn-based zombie card game experience.