Dead Panic is a ‘casual zombie shooter’ that puts you in control of small group of soldiers fighting to put an end to the zombie plague that has engulfed New York. If it’ s got zombies in it then I’m up for trying it and the developer, Sean Maher, was kind enough to pass the MR Team a few codes for review.
Full scoop and in depth review after the jump.
The game is set in a 2.5d version of New York City and puts you in control of a band of soldiers working their way from Southbound 95, New Jersey, and through 13 missions that eventually takes you the Shoreham power plant on Long Island as you attempt to discover what started the zombie apocalypse and eradicate the plague.
In a weird mix of tower defense and reactive management gameplay you must place your troops and realign them to reset their lines of fire as you fend off multi-directional zombie attacks. And that’s basically it. Set down your troops in the best formation and fend off the hordes. The current $0.99 sale price tag (reduced from $1.99) is where it’s at and the developer should hold his price here in my opinion. It’s definitely not a free game but it’s not really worth much more than $0.99 in its current form, unless considerable updates with new content are planned.
Each of the game’s 13 stages is interwoven with a piece of written narrative and sometimes a graphic to set the tone for the next stage. It’s an interesting way of setting the storyline and adds some small depth to the game, though it is fairly thin in its current format. It may have looked better done as a comic book narrative and this could hold more attention. Anyway, these are only the links between the game’s stages so they hold little bearing on what you have really stumped up your money for: zombie hordes racing at you and you blasting them away as the panic and pressure builds to a crescendo!
At the start of each of the game’s stages you position your troops to make best use of line of sight (LOS) and cover. Sometimes you’ll also have pieces of fencing to position so you can block off entry holes in your defensive perimiter and this allow you to occasionally funnel the zombies down into a bottlenecked killing zone. Once your troops are in position you hit play and it’s then a case of rotating your troops’ LOS to cull the advancing zombie hordes before they set upon you. Each level is completed when your zombie body count / level objective counter in the top right hand corner of the screen reaches 100%.
The game is an interesting gameplay and distraction and each level tends to add some small new element. However a lot of the levels are fairly simple and the gameplay is somewhat repetitive. On many levels if you correctly set up your defensive stance you can leave it to run itself with no LOS micromanagement. In fact the first 9 levels are very similar, using 3 soldiers that often only require limited interaction until the stage is complete. After these stages are complete it gets more interesting though. Your troops are slowly picked off, the zombie horde becomes more diverse and you pick up a lone sharpshooter with longer range, higher powered shots but very thin LOS that needs your constant touch to pick off headshots.
The games graphics do the job but frankly are nothing to get excited about and could easily have been spiced up with some extra work to make them better. A basic 2.5d backdrop with thin textures sets the scene. On top of which you have massively out-sized troops and zombies roaming around on a Lilliputian scale landscape. Troops dwarf the surrounding wrecked cars and buildings, though this obviously this had to be done to allow the largest possible playing field on small screen with the best use of character sprites for ease of control and viewing. I would have liked to have seen some bodies piling up or some exploding zombies with gibs but the basic graphics mean that the zombies just disappear when they’re killed.
The zombies come in 2 types. The human-esque, arms outstretched lurching ones and the fatter tougher gray ones, but the sprites for each type are all the same. A few more sprites could wouldn’t have gone amiss and would have set the zombie hordes up to be more mixed and interesting. Even different coloured shirts, trousers and skin tones on the existing sprites would have done the trick to some extent. Apart from zombies there’s only flocks of crows and crabs(!) to keep your sharp shooters occupied at the moment
The controls are easy to understand. A single screen touch selects the closest soldier and you move your finger around the screen to rotate the LOS. The game only supports single-touch and, given the iDevice capabilities, I wonder if some kind of multi-touch set up could be arranged that would allow control of more than one soldier at a a time? Another niggling issue is that the LOS graphic is not obscured or shadowed by objects and scenery but obviously you cannot fire through them. This creates some difficulties in accurate starting set ups and, although it may not be simple to program this in, if it was included it would create further depth and detail to the game’s graphics. Game sounds are good and the music is interesting and eerie enough to set the correct tone plus
The game’s missions can be whizzed through in a couple of hours if you are so inclined but, as the developer professes in his App Store blurb, the game has been designed as a pick-up-and-play fix to fill a 5 or 10 minute gap so it’s more likely that you’ll be finishing the game slowly over days and weeks due to the repetitive gameplay, which nevertheless is indeed fun in short blasts. If you are in the middle of a stage and need to jump out of the game for some reason there is an auto save, though I experienced occasional crashes on reload that meant I sometimes had to restart a level. Again a small issue only and probably due to memory problems.
All in all Dead Panic is a nice little game. Simple in its gameplay and design but refreshing and intense. It will provide you with nice little 5 minute gameplay fixes every now and then, though you’ll probably find yourself jogging through the later stages as they get more intense. This is when you realise the full extent of the game and the Dead Panic starts to set in. The game is a great leap in programming for developer Sean Maher from his previous titles and the game concept is sound. I hope he provides some updates or even a revised, streamlined and updated Dead Panic 2 as I’ll be a definite buyer of his next title as I did enjoy this one. Unfortunately though, once you have completed Dead Panic I don’t see much replay value in the game apart from playing a couple of the more interesting later levels again or purposely starting off on the easy difficulty and then going to normal for your second game play through.
- Presentation & Graphics [rating:3.0/5]
- Audio [rating:4.0/5]
- Gameplay & Controls [rating:4.0/5]
- Replay Value [rating:3.0/5]
- Value For Money [rating:3.5/5]
- Overall [rating:overall/5]
Dead Panic is available on the App Store for the currently reduced price of $0.99.