No more Joy from Jetpacks? These zombies will fill that void.
It is said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. In the game world, while imitation may run rampant, it’s generally frowned upon when a studio pumps out a clone of a more popular game. But what if said studio was to, say, innovate on a current idea while adding new features and elements to make the game their own? Considering almost every single new game uses gameplay mechanics from a previous release, that’s simply good gaming business. This is Zombie Carnival, the latest game from Mobigame, the people who brought us the fantastic EDGE and Perfect Cell.
The concept of touch-to-jump-as-you-run-forward-at-increasing-speeds is not something that is exclusive to Jetpack Joyride, as even that game is based upon the original Canabalt and other titles. However, Jetpack has really taken over the market for that game style for the past several months. Don’t get me wrong, Jetpack is a great game, as I noted in my review, but I always felt like Halfbrick could have done more. Other than a few helpful items, there’s wasn’t a big reason to buy stuff in the store other than for aesthetic purposes. Zombie Carnaval puts a huge emphasis on using coins that you collect to upgrade powerups, starting bonuses, and many other items that actually effect gameplay. In fact, the cosmetic items in the marketplace take a back burner to the upgrade tree and single use items. Yes, there is an upgrade tree!
Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself, though. In Zombie Carnaval you play a hilariously bug-eyed zombie who’s goal is to turn as many civilians as he can into new zombies. These new zombies are then added to your growing mob of flesh-eating creepers. The more civilians you eat, cars and buses you destroy, and tanks you overrun, the bigger your zombie mob grows, the faster you move, and the farther to the right of the screen you end up. This means that the bigger your mob is, the harder it is to avoid obstacles and pits. Luckily, it’s ok if you lose zombies along the way. In fact, as long as you end up with only one zombie left, you’re still good to go! You control the entire mob by jumping with the front zombie while the rest of your group follows these movements. If the first zombie falls down a whole or explodes, the control immediately moves to the next zombie down the line, meaning playing a perfect game isn’t expected, and once you reach a large number of zombies, is virtually impossible.
Along the way there are some fantastic powerups, such as a Chinese dragon and ninja zombies. All of these powerups be can upgraded three times in the upgrade tree, either making them more effective or adding time to the powerup. All of the powerups are really fun to use, with my favorite being the “Big Z”; a crazy beast that is created when all the zombies merge together. It shoots lazers of it’s eyes, destroying everything in it’s path, and can be upgraded to be even more deadly if you collect enough coins. Once you upgrade swords on the ninja, they are badass as well as they slice through people, cars, and bombs alike. There are some other great powerups, but I’ll let you find those for yourself.
Like Jetpack Joyride and many other modern games on App Store, Zombie Carnival gives you three missions to accomplish at any given time. These missions help fill up a vial of some sort of grotesque organic concoction. When the vial is full, you get a coin bonus that continuously goes up as the missions become more difficult. In addition to coins, for every brain you collect in the games you fill up a large box. When you fill up the box with brains, you’re given a lottery ticket “scratcher” with two scratch-off areas to win gold and other prizes. I don’t know why, but there’s something extremely satisfying about scratchers, and I spent more gold than I’m willing to admit in the marketplace buying these rather than saving up brains to earn them for free.
The visuals in Carnival are are colorful and polished, from the silly eyeball animations on the zombies, to the great environmental animations, to the funny randomized backgrounds. In fact, one of the things I really appreciate about ZC is the fact that you can note your progression in the game by what environment you’re playing in. Rather than completely random environments, the game always starts you in a city, which you progress through to other areas in order of difficulty. By the time you hit the Myan civilization, you know you’re getting really far (and will probably die quite soon). I liked this, as it allows you to quickly gauge how well you’re doing without trying to calculate out your score or coin total. I should also mention that the sound and music is also really well done. My wife and I catch ourselves humming the main tune quite often, and the zombie noises made when you get a large mob together are hilarious. The zombie sounds also change depending on what powerup you’re using, which is a nice touch.
Every few months a new game comes out that absolutely dominates my iOS gaming, and Zombie Carnaval is that game. Mobigame has taken the best parts out of one-touch, forward-motion platforming games and thrown in enough features and charm to really make this title stand out above the rest. I lost interest in Jetpack Joyride a lot sooner than I expected due to a lack of reasons to spend gold, but with Zombie Carnaval, I’m constantly waiting for the next upgrade, item purchase, and lottery ticket. Most importantly, it is some of the most fun I’ve had in an iOS game for a long time. Games like Angry Birds can often provide more frustration than fun, but Zombie Carnaval doesn’t punish you for every tiny little mistake. In fact, it makes those “mistakes” a big part of enjoying the game. If you’re looking for a fantastic game to kill some time this summer, look no further!
Zombie Carnaval is available for $.99 (Universal)
NOTE: As of writing this, Mobigame has acknowledge a bug that will cause the game to crash on 4th Gen iPods and 1st Gen iPads (it is a fairly graphics intensive game). They are working on releasing a patch ASAP to resolve these issues.