Zombies!!! (punctuation theirs) is a competitive zombie apocalypse boardgame in which players set up a city one tile and one turn at a time. Eventually a helipad appears and everyone scrambles to reach it. Until then, the objective is staying alive with very limited ammo, very limited health, a handful of cards to tweak the action, and the brutality of six-sided die rolls. Now Zombies!!! is also a terrible iOS port.
After the jump, zoinks, gadzooks, and ah-ooh-gah!
Zombies!!! for the iOS is a textbook example of how not to port a boardgame. The worst thing you can do to a game as simple as Zombies!!! is to slather it with a thick layer of pointless production values that get in the way of actually playing the game. Something as simple as a die roll — there will be literally a hundred during an average game — involves an unskippable four second animation. Great, I rolled a six. That’s all I need to know. I don’t want to watch yet again that turgid animation of cartoon GI Joe guy shooting a cartoon zombie. Let me see my number and get on with playing the game. So I’ll just go to the options setting to turn off the animations. Oh, look, there’s no such option.
The card art retains the grim EC Comics style from the actual boardgame, but the ingame graphics are exaggerated zoinks! gadzooks! jeepers! kiddie stuff, from the goofy player pieces to the cutesy zombies to the Pee Wee’s Playhouse style exaggerated buildings all up in your face and between you and whatever’s in the building. Which is information you want to know, but you get to tap on the roofs to see it. I don’t need a gigantic badge on top of the police station. I just need to know how much ammo, how much health, and how many zombies are inside. Yet I have to keep tapping the various roofs. Tap tap tapping, like I really need to tell Edgar Allen something. Tap tap tap.
The busy polygon jumble is even worse when you zoom out. Here’s a screenshot of a completed city, ready for you to get to the chopper.
How about that inscrutable soup of nighttime blue? Now figure out the easiest route to get to the helipad, as well as where you can go along the way to get more ammo and health, and how you can interfere with the other players’ progress. It’s pretty straightforward with the boardgame, spread out on a tabletop with simple tiles. On your iPad, you’re going to slide, zoom, unzoom, slide, zoom, tap to check inside a building, slide, zoom, tap to check a building, and tap to check another building, tap tap tapping. Meticulously sift through the soup of nighttime blue to cull relevant shreds of information. It’s a triumph of crowded artwork over functionality.
Even the basics of gameplay are occasionally fumbled. When you draw and place a tile in the boardgame, you also see how many zombies, how much ammo, and how much health will be on the tile. That might play a part in where you put the tile. But in this iOS port, you don’t see that information until after you’ve committed to the location of the tile. Oops, I just dropped eight zombies and zero bullets next to my position. Or, oops, I just dropped all that health next to the other player.
I appreciate some attempts at a decent interface. For instance, when you have a card relevant to a location, a pointer towards that location lights up when it’s your turn. If I have the molotov cocktail card that only works at the gas station, naturally I want to go to the gas station. Zombies!!! knows enough to know that about me. You can automate the tile placement and zombie moving if you want, which is essentially opting out of playing the game. But it keeps the pace snappy if you just want to roll dice, mandatory animations excepted. To really make the pace snappier, you can skip watching the other players’ turns. There are a handful of options for how to play the game, including a solitaire mode.
But like most good iOS ports, at least now you can play Zombies!!! with your friends across the internet. Oh, wait, no you can’t. Zombies!!! only supports local multiplayer.