Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
Graphics / Sound Rating:
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In my years of being a consumer, I've found that messing with genre boundaries is a messy thing. For every 'Walk This Way' you get 5 'N 2Gether Now's, forcing most people (developers in this case) so stick to genre norms. With the iPhone being a perfect platform for the 'Tower Defense' genre, it seems so simple to just stick with what works. As Aerosmith and Run D.M.C would tell you though, stepping outside of the norm can be just what the doctor ordered.
Zombie Attack! Second Wave (ZA2) is a 'Tower Defense' game in its truest sense, but has some unconventional tweaks that make the game unique. The goal of ZA2 is simple, defend your home from the wave of oncoming zombies. To do this, you use your 6 upgradeable weapons (towers), most of which are standard fare, some of which aren't, to create the closest thing you can to an impenetrable wall. Instead of traditionally acting as the god of the screen, you use your character (the last survivor) to move around the map and build the towers wherever you please. You can also attack zombies with your character, but once you get to the later levels it doesn't work out so well (inerestingly, you can get your "last survivor" killed as much as you want, he comes back after a timed re-spawn... does that make you a zombie?).
At first glance, the game seems quite entertaining, with bright graphics, good sound, and an entertaining premise, but I quickly found a few critical flaws. Problem #1 stems from the different game modes, or lack thereof, that the game presents you. In a standard game, any kind of game, there is a goal that you are aiming to achieve. In Mario, you are looking to kill Bowser, in Zelda, you kill Gannon, in Fieldrunners, you get to level 100. ZA2 gives you nothing... nothing to play for, no levels to unlock, no weapons to gain, only an online high score that you can attempt to beat and four different levels. There are two game modes, 'Survivor' and 'Challenge', but both just have you fighting endless waves of zombies until you die. 'Challenge is slightly more entertaining because it changes up the gameplay a bit (limit weapon choices, make your house weaker), but neither give you anything to really strive for. You just play because it's something to do, and most of the time I could be doing something somewhat fulfilling to do with my time.
Problem #2 is the way weapon upgrades work. Let's say you have 4 towers, and you really like your flamethrower the best. You go on to neglect your other towers because you want to upgrade to the best flamethrower possible, costing a bunch of money. After you get your flamethrower to the max upgrade, you find out that upgrading your other towers costs more money now than it did when you started. I don't know what metric they use for the pricing scale, but the fact that I have to think about it leads me to some odd budgeting struggles, which leads me to the next problem.
Problem #3. Because upgrading towers after a while becomes exponentially more expensive, you can choose one of two strategies. On one hand, you could build a bunch of towers and keep them at low level upgrades, or you can build a few and make them really strong. Either way, the later level zombies will take forever to kill, and because of their slow movement (they are zombies after all), the game is slowed down considerably. There were so many instances where I would set up my towers and then leave to grab some food, coming back to the exact situation that I was in when I left. I really just want to try to build up a super defense with my little guy, trying to weave in and out of the zombies to build more towers. Having a way to win would be pretty awesome too... but I already discussed that in problem #1.
Being a fairly slow, hard to manage, winner-less game, ZA2 has quite a bit of charm. I've come back to it many more times than I thought I would after my first go around, but I really just can't see this one as staying on my iDevice for too much longer. I really like to win, and without a solid way to do that, I have a hard time moving on. I'm really hoping that a future update will provide me with some kind of finish line. For the current price of $3.99, I'd only really recommend this one if you have already mastered the giants of the tower defense genre (geoDefense Swarm, Fieldrunners, Sentinel 2) and are just looking for something to hold you over until the next big thing.