This game has ghosts. It also has zombies.
I’ll give the premise of Ghosts ‘n Zombies as many words as it both deserves and requires. A Monk is sent to a haunted chapel, armed with a shotgun. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, your Monk will be guided towards the light of victory by the tilt of your hand and tap of your finger - tilt to move and tap to shoot, it really is that simple.
Working in its favour, this simplicity is complemented by some surprisingly deep gameplay mechanics. Multiple weapons keep you on your toes for preserving your limited ammo stocks, replenishable by collecting crystals from the dead ghoulies that flooded the screen. Crystals also restore health, which I found to be quite hard to keep track of in the middle of a frantic game. As is the case with any iPhone game, a side effect of touching the screen is that your finger gets in the way of the action, and occasionally hits the pause button at unfavourable moments. This was a rare occurrence, and the tap-to-shoot action certainly proved itself reliable enough for a fast paced game such as this.
Also keeping you alert is the enemy variety, and some other more subtle gameplay manipulators. There’s the traditional inclusion of icy patches and conveyor belts to make your movement a little less predictable, and rocks to use as cover that really do turn some levels into a little game of Space Invaders. Wall-mounted lights will freeze enemies when you shoot at them, which is a great opportunity to make the most of enemy clusters and get the crucial combos that boost your crystal yield considerably.
It is very important that you play this game a certain way, otherwise you’ll frequently face a surprisingly brutal ending. Waste all your ammo or run out of time, and a grim reaper will descend and chop you up with his instant-kill double scythe of doom. It took me a considerable number of deaths to finally realise this was its purpose as opposed to being an indestructible enemy, and there really should have been something that told me why this seemingly invincible harbinger off death suddenly decided he had it in for me. It is actually possible to kill the reaper when the clock hits zero, in sort of a ‘Last Stand’ fashion, but it’s a formidable foe to say the least so your chances of survival are slim at best.
Nailing combos is the key to success, and in that respect Ghosts n’ Zombies is almost a puzzle game. By hitting combos you’ll get much more ammo in your reserves, whereas aiming for one enemy at a time is essentially signing your death warrant. This mechanic could be very divisive in that it encourages a more strategic approach to gameplay, yet it does seem unforgiving and perhaps unsuitable for on-the-go gaming. While I found that imposing the death penalty on me because I ran out of ammo was unfair and rather frustrating, it could be overlooked for those willing to invest time in the game. Unfortunately this hides away a lot of the game’s content for everyone else, which is a shame because the music and presentation are both great, and good attention has been paid to the animation.
In addition to the adverts that haunt the full version of the game, albeit temporarily according to developers TipCat Mobile, it utilises the OpenFeint network for score tracking, achievements and many other features. Despite some questionable design choices, Ghosts ‘n Zombies is a highly competent envisioning of what is now a tried and tested genre, and well worth picking up right now for the introductory price of 59p. The most important thing you should take away from this review, however, is that you can dismember the zombies limb by limb with your shotgun, as a Monk, in a chapel, on your iPhone.
- Sound: 8
- Graphics: 8
- Gameplay: 7
- Longevity: 8
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