Zombies!!! for Windows Phone 7
Zombies!!! started its (un)life as a unique board game 10 years ago from Twilight Creations. Since the first edition, a number of expansion packs and alternate rules have kept the game fresh. I’ve been a fan of it since almost the beginning, and followed the Yahoo newsgroup for the game for a number of years, including trying out some of the fan suggested alternate rules options. Now Zombies!!! made the transition to a video game on the Windows Phone 7 platform via developer Babaroga Games, and published by Microsoft, giving it the Xbox Live treatment. The adaptation not only captures the feel of the tabletop game for newcomers, but enhances the experience for those who’ve played the tabletop version.
A game for 2-6 players, the basic goal of Zombies!!! is escape from the town square to the awaiting helipad or kill 25 zombies. To get through the horrors of the undead, each player starts with 3 hearts (lives) and 3 bullets (combat roll modifiers) and 3 event cards. If you fail a combat roll, you have the option of using one of your lives, or using 1 or more bullets to change the outcome and add a zombie to your kill pile. If you die, you have to turn in half your kills and start over. Cards in your hand can represent everything from a weapon power-up to a card that cripples one of your opponents with fear for one turn.
Instead of a fixed board, there are a stack of map tiles, each with different layouts. The game starts with only the town square tile in play. At the beginning of each players turn, a map tile is drawn from the deck and placed adjacent to an existing tile then populated with zombies. Some squares have unique stores on them loaded up with additional health and ammo, and some of the cards have unique bonuses based on being in that location, which alter your decisions drastically. After the tile is laid, movement and combat occurs (if required), then that player gets to move a random number of zombies on the board. One of the unique elements of the board game is the constantly evolving town. Even the laying of the map can become strategic if you’re in a different section of town as your opponents, and the helipad turns up.
Zombies !!! on Windows Phone 7
Moving to the phone, Babaroga Games did a great job in converting a 2D board game into a 3D video game. Both the gameplay and the 3D tiles faithfully translate the board game to the small screen, while adding some nice flourishes. When a player goes into combat, the game goes into splitscreen mode, to give you a close up of combat, including combat animations based on the weapon used. Victory animations are smooth as well. At first blush I was a little underwhelmed by the texture work, but after about 10 minutes into the first game realized that too much detail would make the map much less legible. Babaroga found a good balance between detail and clarity. The overall ambience of the game works as well, even if the grainy film look could come across as derivative of Left 4 Dead, though I’d argue that since Zombies!!! the board game has been out for about a decade, that’s really splitting hairs.
The phone version allows for local multiplayer and playing solo against a number of CPU opponents. After doing a couple of games against 2 CPU players, the computer AI held up well, meaning that it generally knew the right moment to play a card to screw over your plans. Map navigation works really well, with rotation and 3 levels of zoom. Even though it’s possible to lose track of another player as the map expands, tapping on their name will centre the board on them, so you can plan some back-stabbing tactics.
Unlike many mobile games, this one takes time to play. Even if you play by shortened rules, it can take over half an hour while a full game can stretch well beyond an hour. If you’re looking for something a little more action packed, there’s also a Survial Horror mode which pits you against a pre-generated map full of zombies. This mode goes by much faster and offers its own challenges, as every single zombie is gunning for you and you alone. The phone version also has the Xbox Live blessing, which means there are a number of Achievements to unlock in the full version.
Though certainly pricier than many mobile games, $4.99 US is well worth the price of admission. Zombies!!! as a faithful an adaptation of the real world game, while being enhanced for a mobile platform. In that sense, it can be compared to the Windows Phone version of Monopoly, which also not only works on the phone, but takes on its own life. That being said, I never bought Monopoly, but that’s probably because I don’t get to use a chainsaw in that game.
Even if you’re not a fan of the zombie genre, the game is well-thought out and offers a good combination of strategic and tactical thought. I was frankly surprised at how well it translated to the small screen.
As a footnote, if you don’t have a Windows Phone 7 device, I can’t recommend the original Zombies!!! game high enough.