When there's no more room in hell, the dead will roam the App Store
Zombies are everywhere in videogames; Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead, Timesplitters – even Call of Duty. The alarming frequency that the undead appear in the interactive media raises an interesting question though; why have there been no videogame adaptations of the big zombie films? Where are the games based on Night of the Living Dead? 28 Days Later? I Am Legend? The appropriately named developer Byte Mark have taken a step in the right direction by acquiring the rights to George A. Romero’s genre defining horror romp; Dawn of the Dead, and have brought the license to iDevices in the form of a top down shooter.
Set in and around the Crossroad Mall, Dawn of the Dead isn’t dissimilar to other App Store twin stick shooters such as iDracula, except the action moves about the screen in a more directed fashion. By this I mean there are loose narrative driven objectives that shepherd the player from A to B. These generally involve killing all the zombies in a given area, surviving a certain amount of time before a door unlocks, or simply getting to the exit. Indeed, the objectives are as tedious and shallow as they sound, and the game would have worked much better if it was constrained to a single location.
I honestly get bored of criticising iPhone games for their controls, and not because I have to do it so often (and I do), but because by now, developers should know what works and what doesn’t. Dawn of the Dead suffers from possibly the most unresponsive set of controls I’ve yet witnessed on a touch screen game. Try and attack a zombie to your left, and your character will clumsily swing to the right, other times he or she will just stand there like a lemon. It’s awkward and frustrating, and is responsible for turning a bad game, into a terrible game. What’s strange is the game adopts the same control template that games such as iDracula and Minigore have used with great success - movement stick in the bottom left, action in the bottom right - but with Dawn of the Dead, the implementation simply doesn’t work.
I played through the entire game using just melee weapons, and not because I enjoy being up close and personal with the walking dead, but because aiming and shooting a gun is painfully difficult. It’s easier just to stick to clobbering their heads in with a baseball bat or golf club, but as I addressed above, even this is hard work. Killing zombies should be a joyous and uplifting experience - especially given the half decent range of blunt objects to bash their heads in with – but playing Dawn of the Dead is just plain dull.
Thankfully, the game only makes you endure five levels of this monotonous agony, each lasting around three or four minutes. I completed the game in less than 20 minutes, and was less than thrilled at the prospect of trying to beat my score with another character. The game offers a Police officer, nurse and salesman to play though with, each with varying speed, strength and shooting attributes, but your choice ultimately has little effect in terms of gameplay.
To offer a few words in the game's defence; the music is authentic and atmospheric, and the main menu features a handy link to purchase the movie. And that's about all I can muster without resorting to lying through my teeth.
Much like having your head chomped on by a brain thirsty zombie; playing Dawn of the Dead isn't a very pleasant experience. It's frustrating, awkward and most importantly; not enjoyable. Considering the strength of the license, Dawn of the Dead is a massive disappointment, and at £1.19, the game amounts to little more than a very expensive link to the film.
- Sound: 6
- Graphics: 6
- Gameplay: 3
- Longevity: 2
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