The Walking Dead craze has infected millions of people across the globe (pun intended) and even spawned an award winning video game from Telltale! . . . which is not this game. The Walking Dead: Assault is an iOS game from Skybound designed for both the iPad and iPhone. Rather than explore the complicated hardships of apocalyptic survival like most Walking Dead properties, Assault ditches horror and subtlety in favor of the simple yet suitable approach: "kill or be killed."
The Walking Dead: Assault is a strategy game with a top-down isometric view with complete camera control. Using a team of four different survivors, your goal is to literally "assault" and kill all the zombies on the map. While this is quite different from the comics, where fighting off just one zombie is always a challenge worth avoiding, the simple goal is right at home on the simple iPad. With the wide, top-down view and strategic-action gameplay, Assault does not have any real scares in store. However, the sheer number of enemies forces you to conserve your ammunition and health, and every "assault" needs to be carefully planned and executed.
Assault is based on the comic books, directly pulling stories, characters, and even the familiar art. It perfectly adapts the comic's gritty black-and-white style while coloring items, certain enemies… and blood, of course. You'll even spot some speech bubbles and actual panels from the comic every so often. The music is fitting and creepy, though sometimes overpowering, but the overall feel and appearance is magnificent!
Tapping the screen moves your squad of up to four survivors through 11 familiar wastelands. There are numerous bonus objectives to complete in each stage, like finding supplies and rescuing other survivors. Finishing these will unlock extras like comic art and trivia. Sometimes the stranded survivors you meet will attack, and you can kill them and take their supplies. However, in true Walking Dead fashion, any slain survivors (including your own) will rise up seconds later as bloodthirsty zombies!
Gathered supplies are used to purchase upgrades or new characters. Each character has unique health stats, running ability, and weapons. They automatically attack zombies within their range, indicated by a convenient blue circle. Rick has his trusty handgun with a long range, while Shane wields his deadlier but shorter-reaching shotgun. Weapons make a lot of noise, and too much will attract an enormous horde of zombies that is nearly impossible to defeat. To avoid the horde and conserve your ammo, you can switch each character to a melee weapon.
Still, combat is more complicated than simply walking up to zombies and smacking them in the face. If you want to stay alive, every group of undead will require planning and precision. Distractions like car alarms can be used to attract nearby zombies, and there's nothing more satisfying that obliterating a large group with a well placed explosive flare! Every character possesses special skills which aid in certain situations. For example, Rick's special move delivers all headshots, Andrea camouflages nearby teammates, Carol heals the team, and so on. Mixing the 10 selectable characters and their abilities in new combinations will provide completely different experiences and brand new ways to approach the zombie masses.
Assault's strategy-shooter gameplay is solid, but aside from increasing the number of zombies onscreen the game does little to change as you progress. To keep it from getting repetitive, you might have to continue switching things up yourself. Some of the controls can also get frustrating at times. Because of the nature of touch controls, the game does not feel as responsive as it should when you're frantically adjusting to heated situations. Switching the weapons of four characters with one button gets awkward, and the melee range is pitifully small. Melee characters can sit idle even in the middle of battle until you move them separately toward zombies one at a time.
Despite its flaws, Assault is brilliantly designed for the simplicity of the iPhone and iPad. What could have been a cheap-cash-in is a surprisingly appealing strategy game. If you're a Walking Dead fan, or are hungering for some low-priced portable zombie action, you can buy The Walking Dead: Assault on iTunes for $2.99.
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