App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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The PC hit DayZ has finally come to the App Store, but in a more mobile-tuned package. Mini DAYZ tries to pack all of the zombie survival elements of its PC counterpart into a top-down, 2D experience. While there are some neat ideas at work in this simplified version of DayZ, MiniDAYZ feels a bit too light on content and suffers from some technical issues that make it hard to enjoy.
Mini DAYZ should feel immediately familiar to anyone who has played a top-down survival game before. Much like Don't Starve, Mini DAYZ has you controlling a character that you must try to keep alive. As you play, your character has four main meters: health, hunger, thirst, and warmth, and you need to explore and exploit your surroundings to make sure none of those meters drain enough for you to die.
What sets Mini DAYZ a bit apart is that you are trying to survive in the wake of the zombie apocalypse. This means that in your pursuit of food, drink, shelter, etc., you are always at risk of running across undead creatures that want to kill you. In addition to this, the environments of Mini DAYZ feature crumbling remnants of civilization, which allows you to rely on scavenging weapons and clothing from cars and houses instead of having to craft all of your items yourself.
Live long and prosper
The longer you make it in Mini DAYZ, the more capable your character will become. This is partly because of the game's perk system, which allows you to upgrade your character once they've earned enough points, but also because you'll have more access to items that increase your survivability. There is still some light crafting in Mini DAYZ, so gathering the right combination of items is key to making it one more day.
The only real problem with this system though is that your ability to survive in Mini DAYZ is a matter of chance. The game randomly generates the world every time you play, and in ways that can sometimes feel unfair. There are times when playing where food is extra scarce or you come across several towns that seem to have been picked clean of weapons. Other times, you might find a backpack, weapons, food, and water all conveniently laid out for you in one house.
Although the random aspects of Mini DAYZ can be mildly irritating, the true downfall of this survival game is its general lack of content and polish. There isn't a huge variety of items or things to do in Mini DAYZ, and what's there is sometimes pretty cumbersome and occasionally broken.
Every game follows a really similar format, with you scavenging, fighting, and healing before moving onto the next place. Everything is predictable, except that certain playthroughs may start you with painfully few resources at your disposal. If you ever find yourself in this situation, Mini DAYZ offers the ability to watch an ad for a free item drop, but this function routinely causes the entire game to freeze up. Other technical issues include some poor pathfinding, braindead AI, and an extremely unwieldy menu system.
The bottom line
In a lot of ways, Mini DAYZ feels like an unfinished experiment than it does a full game. Though it does sort of capture a lot of the ideas present in the original DayZ, it's light on content and has quite a few rough edges. As far as free survival games go, Mini DAYZ might appeal to you. Just know that there are much better entries in the genre for just a couple bucks that are much, much more enjoyable.