Adaptations of card and board games were fairly common during the early days of the Xbox LIVE Arcade, and so too are they becoming on Windows Phone 7. From Electronic Arts’ Monopoly to Microsoft Game Studios’ Game Chest: Solitaire, Zombies!!! is the latest addition to a rapidly growing catalogue. Currently an exclusive to the mobile platform (an Xbox 360 version is reportedly in the works) Zombies!!! takes pride of place alongside Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst and The Harvest as one of the greatest selling points for gamers considering adoption of the format.
Adapted to a videogame by Babaroga, a studio well versed in mobile development, Zombies!!! offers a comprehensive virtual take on the original board game as well as a number of additional gameplay modes. The player is a survivor in a zombie holocaust and most explore an expanding town with the aim of finding the helicopter pad, or wiping out enough zombies. Each turn is split into a number of phases: first the player must place a new square of terrain onto an adjacent path; nest is the drawing of new cards to restocking the maximum of three; movement follows, as long as there is no zombie sharing the same square; next is combat; finally comes the movement of zombies. The player can use cards at any point during the turn (dependant on any special rules on the card itself), and will often need to just to get through the turn.
Combat is an often intimidating and brutal affair, with players needing to roll 4+ to remove a zombie from play. Modifiers are available via weapons earned through the use of cards and specific locations, and the player can increase their roll by +1 per bullet used. A re-roll is available through the use of a heart, however using all your hearts will result in death. Both bullets and hearts are available in buildings that are randomly drawn and placed upon the map at each new turn, though death isn’t always a significant penalty. Losing any cards in play, halving their kill count and being returned to the original starting point, the player replenishes their bullet and heart counters, which can be crucial at during the final sprint towards that ultimate goal.
A great tactical element is involved in Zombies!!!, knowing when to use the cards available and when to discard them in the hope for better. Given that some cards can only be played at certain destinations, if that building has not yet been placed upon the map it’s wise to dispose of the item, but if it’s a question of throwing away a heart bonus as it will take you three turns to reach the specified location, the decision is a lot more difficult. Weighing-up your chances of success in combat against the number of bullets and hearts currently in your possession is also essential, even more so in the Survival Horror mode.
In addition to the standard rule set is a quick play arrangement, a mode with pre-constructed maps, and the undoubtedly addictive Survival Horror mode. Here, one player plays through the map with the ultimate goal of wiping out all of the randomly arranged one hundred and five zombies, or making it to the helipad. The usual rule set applies beyond the fact that the player no longer moves the zombies at the end of their turn. Survival Horror mode is a significant challenge, but most certainly an engrossing one, and an addition that Zombies!!! most certainly needed to excel above the competition currently on the Zune Marketplace.
Visually, Zombies!!! is an absolute treat. The locations are packed with detail creating some wonderful looking maps as games progress, yet each one remains immediately identifiable. The art direction is interesting, with the cartoonish palette and animation of the board game counter characters, and the artwork upon the cards is detailed in the same Bruce Campbell esque heroics as the key art promoting the game.
The Windows Phone 7 catalogue of Xbox LIVE enabled games has begun showing a degree of uniqueness, pushing beyond the basic side scrolling affairs and iPhone ports with the promise of more unique titles. Zombies!!! is one such title: a game which any format would keenly welcome, as it’s as fun to play as the games that Twilight Creations’ original board game obviously inspired in some ways. Little bits of Left 4 Dead and Resident Evil can be seen in the intensely strategic affair that is Zombies!!!, and that’s no light compliment. Zombies!!! is simply one of the most compelling titles currently available for Windows Phone 7.