We often think that some day, some kind of chemical weapon or mutated virus will create feet-dragging flesh-eaters that will take over the world.
Well, I hate to break it to you, but it has already happened! Zombies are frickin’ everywhere, infesting our TV screens, movie theaters, books, comics, consoles, and of course, smart phones. Why we are so fascinated with these brainless freaks I’ll never understand. I myself are too easily prone to their advances; The Walking Dead is TV gold, and Sean of the Dead, and the lesser Zombieland, tickle my funny bone. Even Plants Vs Zombies, with its annoyingly addictive gameplay, pulls me in.
Those highlights aside, it’s clear that our media – whatever shape or form – is infested. A quick glance at the top end of the AppStore games and I can spot at least six zombie themed titles. Like sex, it seems Zombies also sell! Chuck a brainless freak in your game and you’ll no doubt by showered in gold. The problem is, that around 98% of these games will suck. Why? Because for the same reason the developer wasn’t creative enough to think of an original theme for the game… the gameplay, graphics and general quality will most likely also suffer the same lack of creative juice.
So why have I opened this review with this diatribe? Well, because this game has torn me in two, and is trying to break the beliefs you’ve read above! On the one hand it’s a well crafted game, with love and care given across the board, from menu screens, to character art. And then… we have the zombies! Why did it have to be zombies?
Yes, I realise it’s called Zombie Wonderland. But why not Aliens, Pirates or Pandas? (I kid) But seriously, if you are going to pour this much time into a creating a game, why give it the arduous task of have to battle its way though a million other zombie needles in a zombie haystack?
It’s hard to put the zombies to one side, but I owe it to you – our readers – to give you the skinny on what the game has to offer, beyond the great unwashed (I’m talking about Zombies again, not Matt’s brother Pat). So, in order to progress this review fairly I have decided to swap the word ‘Zombie’, for ‘Halibut’.
Halibut Wonderland 2: Outta Time is the sequel to the 2010 game. You still play as Chuck the Halibut cleaner, as he works to clean up the town of Niceville, one Halibut at a time.
The best way to describe the gameplay is as a mix of shooter, strategy and time management all rolled into one. Levels in this game appear as buildings in the town, in which you must clean out the Halibut infestation. You have from midnight to sunrise (the night shift) to keep the Halibut at bay. Your level strategy is split up into three main parts. First you set up your defenses. The most basic of these is to board up any windows in the building, as these are the Halibuts entry points. You can also deploy a turret – tower defense style – and fix it to any window. These come in a variety of types, from boxing gloves, to dynamite tipped crossbows, and will help you take out the Halibut when one weapon isn’t enough.
Hopefully you’ll have your defenses up in time before the second part – the actual Halibut attack – commences. Here you must use Chuck and his trusty shotgun to kill all the approaching Halibut as they attack from all angles, and attempt to break and enter the building. Controlling Chuck is a one finger affair, which is perfect for gaming on iOS devices. Tapping anywhere in the building will make Chuck run to that spot, and when in range you can tap a Halibut and Chuck will unleash the fury of his shotgun. Depending on the size and type of Halibut, you may have to tap more than once to kill it.
As the swarms of Halibut increase, you’ll need to be quick on your feet (or finger) otherwise you’ll be overrun. Not only do you need to keep shooting, but you’ll also need to manage repairs for both the boarded windows (broken in by the Halibut horde) and the turret. If either needs repairing, an icon will appear which you must quickly tap.
If you have been successful, then the level ends with the third part… the clean up. Yes, Chuck seems to pride himself with his high level of customer service where not only does he rid you of flesh eating Halibut, but he also tidies up their butchered remains too. When alerted, you must tap the broom icon to start the cleanup. Here you must furiously swipe the screen to ensure all the Halibut innards are gone before the sun comes up. If any are left behind they’ll be taken off you final score, and your pay packet for the job.
Each level, or job, consists of three nights in all. Do a good job across all three and you’ll be awarded with stars galore, and bonus points and cash to spend on upgrading your weapons… and of course your trusty broom (of which can upgrade to a Dyson later).
This gameplay is essentially the same as the first game, but it comes with new features. One of these is the new store where you can buy new weapons, and upgrades such as: new shotgun rounds, including ones that turn Halibut to stone; different turrets, like a giant flytrap and a cannon hat; and cleaning products, from vacuums to hoover-bots. You’ll have to work hard to earn the pricier items, by revisiting buildings for better scores… or there’s always the yellow option of buying them with real cash.
The biggest change to the game this time is the new storyline and setting. While much of it still takes place in Niceville – amongst the barber shop, diner, farm etc – it also features new areas. As the sub-title of the game suggests, these take place at various destinations through time.
All this time travel is wrapped up in a great little story involving you, the townsfolk, and the local crazy scientist Dr. Krause. The good doctor requests you bring him special artifacts from the specific characters from the past, in order for him to create a super weapon against the Halibut. Each level has a different character, and in order to gain their special item, you must not only clear their habitat of Halibut, but also offer up items of use to them in return. It just so happens that the citizens of Niceville have these items. Cue a manic scramble as you travel back and forth through time, killing Halibut in Ancient Egypt one minute and then in a 21st century Diner the next.
The best thing of course about these new areas of the past, are the crazy new enemy types you’ll encounter. So for example in a Viking Hut you’ll be slaying norse Halibut, complete with horned helmets, in Ancient Egypt mummified Halibut, and in Medieval Japan, Ninja Halibut! As well as typical grunts, each level contains one or more super enemy types. These range from being faster, or stronger and are generally more of a pain to take out. Each has a funny introductory title entrance, and commentary.
It soon dawns on you, and Chuck, that Dr. Krause might not be the nice crazy old man you thought he was, and once you’ve completed all the levels, the story come to a head and throws you into a final showdown, where you must put all your Halibut cleaning skills to good use.
There is no doubt that Halibut Wonderland 2: Outta time is a fun game. The combination of game types works well, particularly with well executed one touch controls. The challenge, while often hectic, never feels like chore. However, about midway through the game it does all start to get a bit repetitive, and even before you’ve unlocked all the weapons you’ll get a feeling that you’ve seen most of what the game has to offer.
The Z word, and a feeling of deja-vu aside, it’s really hard not to like and enjoy this game. As I said at the start of this review, it has been lovingly created. Everything is well polished, from the 3D environments to the varied character designs. The Danny Elfman-esque music is a particular highlight, perfectly matching the theme and action.
It all come down to how much you like Halibut… ok, ok, Zombies. If you do, then this is one of the better Z-themes games out there. If you don’t, well, maybe you could just imagine you are slaying Aliens, Pirates or Pandas… or Halibut!
Zombie Wonderland 2: Outta Time is out now for $0.99 as a universal game for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Get it on the