Developer: Glu Games
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0.2
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4S

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Zombies and video games go great together. We tend to forget this, especially as zombies in general become increasingly played out, but it’s a fact regardless. While Zombies Ate My Friends is no The Walking Dead, or Zombies Ate My Neighbors for that matter, it still showcases why this combination is so strong in the first place.

IMG_0591[1]As a zombie apocalypse tears through the town of Festerville, players loot and scavenge just to survive. However, since this is an RPG, that is only the beginning of the lengthy, 8-episode story. Throughout their quests, players will reconstruct helicopters, recruit new survivors into their camp, and desperately search for cures for their infected teammates. Sharp writing keeps even the grind-heaviest missions from getting stale. Complimenting that is the excellent art style best described as “Scott Pilgrim” but without the video game aesthetic. Raiders, boss zombies, and other characters have big, expressive, chibi cartoon heads and fluid animations that energize the presentation. Meanwhile dark, moody colors and macabre background details like “Murphy’s Law Office” constantly reinforce the funny yet bleak tone.

Also enhancing the horror, but perhaps inadvertently so, is the freemium influence on Zombies Ate My Friends’ gameplay. The action takes place on a 2D, sidescrolling plane so getting lost is never an issue. Meanwhile, plentiful and inventive weapons like shotguns, cricket bats, and zombie body parts do a good job at keeping the undead at bay. But the energy system, which limits how many actions can be performed without waiting, really makes players fight for every inch. In too many other mobile games this can feel like an arbitrary, cheap, cynical, money-grubbing way of slowing the game down. However, here it actually adds to the oppressive atmosphere.

IMG_0595[1]Agonizing over whether to spend one’s last bit of strength on fortifying a safe house or taking one last swing at a zombie before the quest timer runs out feel like the choices survivors would face. Merchants are shifty, free resources are scarce, space is limited, and inventory management is clunky, but of course things are that way. Society has broken down to its bare essentials. The freemium wall doesn’t hit right away, but once it does, the unique tension it creates is a whole different kind of fun.

Zombies Ate My Friends rides high on its top-notch production values and compelling synthesis of mobile and horror game design philosophies. It’s definitely worth devouring.


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