Long before Resident Evil transformed the art of zombie development, Night of the Living Dead reigned supreme. George A. Romero’s cult classic was the first of its kind; it wasn’t revolutionary filmmaking, but it showed the world a new style of horror, and ushered in a new era of eerie entertainment. It was a movie that opened doors, both for Romero and other horror filmmakers, and has been credited as the unofficial inspiration for many zombie movies and video games ever since.
Several sequels (and a couple remakes) have been made over the years, and now Romero fans can add a new addition to their library: An iPhone game based on Dawn of the Dead. Playing as a nurse, a salesman, or a police officer (AKA the three most likely people to be trapped in a mall during a zombie invasion), Dawn of the Dead is a visceral journey of salvation and survival. There are zombies everywhere; while roaming outside, their attacks are practically endless. Kill one group and another batch of zombies will appear, ready to take their place in the battle for your tasty flesh. Inside, the zombies are less plentiful, but narrow passages could spell doom for anyone not prepared to ward off this deadly threat. If you get cornered, you’d better be ready for a fight.
Weapons are an important part of Dawn of the Dead. At first, players will only be able to use a baseball bat and a handgun (what would a horror game be without them?). But as you earn points for killing zombies, you’ll be able to purchase a machinegun, a shotgun, a glock, and a rifle. Players can also pick up a hammer, a shovel, a golf club, and other weapons that don’t require ammo, but their range and attack power are extremely limited. Purchase one to replace the weak baseball bat, but save the rest of your points for the more exciting weapons.
As a top-down shooter, Dawn of the Dead will definitely remind you of the king of all top-down shooters, Smash TV. Players can attack from any direction just by touching the circular icon on the right side of the screen. For most weapons, it’s best to pump fire by tapping the screen. But once you’ve equipped the machinegun, you can keep your thumb pressed on the icon and slide it around to fire streams of bullets in all directions. It’s a fun and effective way to deal with the city’s growing cannibal problem.
Character movement is exactly what you’d expect; the developers placed an imaginary thumbstick on the left side of the screen that allows you to move around. This works well but it’s not as effective as it could be. You’ll have to diligently slide your thumb around the stick to get your character to move in the desired direction.
Dawn of the Dead is short, but as a fun $0.99 app (that is free as of this writing) that comes with bonus challenges, the length is hard to complain about. When you’re through conquering the story mode (don’t worry, the game doesn’t actually have a story to tell), there are 12 challenges available. The challenges don’t offer much variety – in “Zombie Assassin” you can take your time killing 30 zombies, and in “Think Fast” you’ve got to kill 25 of them in two minutes. Likewise, the “Survive” and “Staying Alive” challenges both feature the same goal: survive the battlefield for two minutes.
Despite the similarity between the challenges, they are entertaining. This isn’t a game that’ll rock your world, nor is it one that will change the way you look at the survival/horror genre. But if you don’t mind spending a buck for an hour’s worth of fun (plus replay value), Dawn of the Dead is worth your time.