I’d say zombie games on the App Store were a dime a dozen, but that’s obviously not true since Apple won’t let you charge less than 99 cents a game. However, there are certainly a sizeable number of games in the App Store that feature zombies in some way, shape or form. So what does one do to make a zombie game that stands out from the crowd? One way would be to create a game like Zombie Dash. You won’t find any heavy artillery or mass destruction here. Instead, you must use your wits and some creative finger work to stay away from the zombies as long as possible. Thank goodness you can fuel up on mossburgers…
You are trapped in a tomb infested with zombies and bats (that also happen to be zombies), and your goal is simply to see how long you can last before you’re overtaken. Your ultimate “score” is comprised of two parts: the number of days you survive and the total number of yards you run. Each day is a level in the tomb, and the levels are randomly generated every time you play. The main goal of each level is to escape, but in order to do that you must find the key. The key is hidden in a treasure chest, and every chest that doesn’t have the key in it contains some gold. You don’t have to collect all the gold, but it’s to your benefit to do so whenever possible.
There are four types of adversaries in Zombie Dash: zombies, zombie bats, snakes in the wall and spikes on the floor. They can all be avoided entirely (well, almost always), but thankfully they can also all be thwarted should you accidentally get caught. Getting rid of bats is simply a matter of flicking them off of you with your finger. If you get caught in a snake three spots will appear on the screen, and you must tap all three spots to get free. Escaping a spike trap is much the same except that the three hot spots are numbered and you must click them in the correct order. Finally, you defeat zombies with zombie magic. Whenever a zombie gets ahold of you a spell will pop up on the screen, and you must perform that spell by tracing over whatever is showing on the screen. When performed correctly the zombie will go away. If you can’t seem to get the spell down, you’ll go away…
Now you’re probably wondering why there’s gold to collect. At the end of each level there’s a store where you can buy some goods. The cheapest good is a moss burger. This burger lasts for one level, and it lets you run faster. Next up is the “can ‘o stink”. That’s not really what it’s called, but it kind of reminds me of the cologne gag in Monsters, Inc. Basically, you spray this stuff on your body and it disguises your scent with zombie smell, so the zombies think you’re one of them. The higher percentage of your body that gets covered, the closer zombies actually have to be before they’ll realize who you are and attack you. Finally there’s zombie anti-venom. This is the most expensive item to purchase, but it will help heal you so that you can live to run a little longer. You start out with three cans of spray and 30 units of anti-venom, and after each level you can purchase whatever goods your collected loot will let you afford.
I know some games on the iPhone allow you to “roll” whatever it is you’re controlling, but if I’m not mistaken Zombie Dash is the first game to actually simulate a track ball with its control scheme. Sometimes it seems to “stick” a bit, which I suppose would be a true simulation of such a control, but it can get frustrating when you spin the control and suddenly stop or seem to go backwards a bit. However, I still think it’s one of the coolest controls I’ve seen in an iPhone game. Overall I don’t think the controls are quite as tight as they could be, but they are certainly manageable. Sometimes it’s hard to swipe a bat off or pull of a zombie spell correctly, especially when you’re trying to run for your life.
The world is viewed from a top down perspective, and the tomb graphics actually remind me of the NES game Legend Of Zelda for some reason. The bats and zombies don’t look too bad, but the main character looks kind of odd. Overall the game has sort of a 16-bit console game feel to it, and while it’s not appalling by any means it could probably stand to be kicked up a notch or two. The sound effects are decent, but I think there needs to be more of them. The spikes and snakes sound really good, and the zombies and bats need to be a lot more vocal. The music in game sounds really good and provides a nice sense of urgency. Music in other places of the game sounds decent as well, but are clearly very short loops on infinite play, which can get annoying pretty quickly (so just make sure you spend most of your time running through the tombs!)
Zombie Dash is a wonderful departure from 90% of what’s available on the App Store as far as zombies are concerned. The fact that you’re mostly spending your time running away rather than trying to obliterate everything in site makes it feel like an old school zombie film. For me it felt like the controls needed to be tightened up a bit, and the graphics could use a minor face lift, but other than that there’s a whole lot here to like. If you’re into zombie games, you need to give this a try. If you like “run until you can’t run any more” type games, Zombie Dash is worth a look. And if you’re in the mood for a quicker-picker-upper… yep, try Zombie Dash!