App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Zombie Night Terror doesn't pretend it's something it's not. It describes itself asLemmings-meets-zombies, and that's exactly what it is, for better or for worse. There are times when this formula really works to create fun challenges around maneuvering various forms of walking dead, but there are just as many times where the game's tools and controls leave you feeling like a helpless victim.
Power in numbers
In Zombie Night Terror, you are put in control of a braindead horde of zombies. When left to their own devices, these corpses helplessly wander around on their own, bump into walls, fall off cliffs, etc. That’s where you come in. Using a suite of nifty zombie powers and commands, you can issue orders to help your zombies spread the outbreak.
The basic structure of the game has you indirectly piloting a zombie horde through increasingly complicated and difficult environments while also granting you new zombie powers to overcome new obstacles. Things like being able to jump, create sneaky climber zombies, and make your zombies scream to demoralize enemies are among the full suite of things you end up getting to use.
You can't just use these powers willy-nilly though, you have to kill humans, sacrifice your own zombies, or pick up powerups to manage a meter that lets you use them. Many levels in Zombie Night Terror revolve around balancing your use of powers in service of overcoming specific puzzles or winning fights. For instance, there may be times where you need to create powerful zombies to take down armed guards or speed up your horde to avoid being run over by a train.
Zombie Night Terror is at its best when its levels focus on laidback puzzles and traversal. When levels escalate to time challenges or things that require a lot of quick reactions to stuff, it becomes a lot more infuriating. Without direct control of your zombies, doing anything that requires precision feels onerous. Obviously, Zombie Night Terror is designed in such a way that you always have the necessary tools to complete a level, but none of them feel great, even when you use them successfully on the first try.
The further you get in Zombie Night Terror, the more precision-based and maddening it gets, and you’ll find yourself restarting levels over and over again just to get the controls and your zombies to do what you want them to do. Even with liberal use of the game’s pause button, it’s really hard to meet the demands of Zombie Night Terror. This is because some challenges operate off of the game clock, which continues to run when you've paused the action. Also, certain things like zombie sacrifices (a necessary tool to let you use zombie powers) don't automatically activate until after you've unpaused the game, so pausing offers extremely limited utility.
Even when you’re playing a non-demanding section of Zombie Night Terror, the game has some issues. In this mobile port, certain cutscenes feature speech bubbles that extend further than the screen. This can be annoying, but overall it’s not a huge loss, as the game's story is mostly hacked-together nonsense. What's more annoying is how unclear Zombie Night Terror’s visual language is. The game is mostly monochromatic and dark (with the exception of bright red blood that shoots out of bodies), which creates a really cool and thematically appropriate look. Unfortunately though, it also makes it hard to see or understand which parts of levels you can actually interact with vs. not.
It’s not all bad though. In fact, the menu-driven controls of Zombie Night Terror feel pretty natural on a touch interface. Clicking around on zombies and dragging to move the level around is a breeze, though it can be pretty hard sometimes to isolate individual zombies you actually want to use powers on, especially when they're clumped together. This lack of precision seems like a core design problem as opposed to a fault with the mobile port, though, so I’m not sure you’ll have a much better experience if you look to play Zombie Night Terror on another platform.
The bottom line
There are some levels in Zombie Night Terror that really work and sell me on the entire premise, but these gems are thinly dispersed across the game. Too often there are challenges that make the controls feel like your enemy more than anything presented on screen. This left me shambling away from sessions with Zombie Night Terror, hungry to play things that feel more satisfying.