We review Zombies, a board game for Windows Phone 7 from Microsoft Games Studio
Zombies, once a refreshing change of pace from the normal ultra-powerful undead villains of the past, are getting a little tired now. So many films and games seem to cast these fairly inept monsters as enemies nowadays, to the point where the sighting of yet another title based around the living dead on Windows Phone 7 is more likely to be greeted with a yawn than a scream.
Zombies!!! - the three exclamation marks are not of our doing - is a little different from the norm. For one, it’s based on a board game, which means that you won’t be twiddling virtual joysticks or setting up towers to defend yourself against a seemingly unending horde.
Instead, up to five players take it in turns to roll a dice to move, shoot, and play debilitating cards against their opponents, both undead and human, with the ultimate objective being either to escape from the besieged city via helicopter, or put to rest a certain number of the living dead.
The city itself is formed dynamically from tiles, played at the start of each player’s turn. Like another board game, Carcassonne, it means that each game plays out a little differently than the last, and introduces an extra layer of tactical considerationion.
For the most part though, Zombies!!! is very much rooted in the age-old concept of rolling dice, with those blessed with Lady Luck at their sides standing more of a chance than those without. Rolling a four or more, for instance, is the only way to kill a zombie, whereas running away is nigh-on-impossible if you keep rolling a ‘one’ during the movement phase.
While the gameplay may lean towards the traditional, the graphics are surprisingly contemporary for a board game conversion. The fully rotatable 3D environment packed with towering buildings and subtle film-grain filter give Zombies!!! more of an action game-look, with only the square movement tiles and turn-based gameplay betraying its true heritage.
There are four game-modes available to play - Standard, Quick Play, Generated Town, and Survival Horror, the former being the standard version of the board game and the latter adjusting the rules to suit solo play. Should you have a number of willing friends nearby, Zombies!!! also supports up to five players at once, although this is disappointingly reduced to pass-the-handset play.
Unfortunately, playing on your own can be a little drab, thanks to the speed at which the AI goes through its moves. There’s no way to skip or speed them up either, so games can easily drag out to 30 minutes or more. This is made more bearable thanks to an auto-save function, but it’s still a little too long for a mobile title.
Should speed not be a major concern, there’s plenty about Zombies!!! to like. From the excellent graphics to the interesting spin on traditional board gaming gameplay, Zombies!!! proves there’s still some life left in the subject’s rotting carcass.