Line-drawing undead animal slaughtering
From the same developers of Le Vamp, High Voltage Software, comes a new take on the line drawing genre popularised by Flight Control and Harbor Master. Don't be fooled by the its looks; the tiled floors and enemies walking from right to left are only a reminiscence of the classic Plants vs. Zombies.
In Zoombies: Animales de la Muerte (Animals of Death) you play as Marco or Maria, two kids helping the owner of a zoo in Mexico completely out of control. Set in new take on the zombie apocalypse scenario, elephants, monkeys and even penguins are infected with the… Z virus? and are on a mission to escape their former cages right into town.
Initially equipped with an axe, your basic goal is to decimate waves of zombified animals — the actual zoo-mbies — while protecting the healthy ones in their stampede to freedom. The gameplay is an entertaining mix of timing and drawing paths with your finger.
The basic axe weapon behaves like a boomerang, chopping enemy heads when thrown, but also on its return trip. This mechanic is essential to optimise your throws, ideally hitting as many enemies as possible while drawing the shortest path — crucial to get ready for a new throw.
Predictable like a bowl of nachos
As the game progresses and this mechanic has been mastered, new ingredients appear in the mix to add more complexity. The shop is full of whacky items with strong Mexican popular culture appeal that change the game ever so slightly but will be crucial to progress steadily. The zombie zoo will begin releasing new animals with different hit points, speeds and behaviour, forcing you to change whatever strategy you were comfortable with already.
Set in short bite-sized levels ala Angry Birds, the five star rating system in place rewards your skill rather than count up points towards a final score. With skill-based challenges such getting 20-hit combos, rescue a certain amount of friendlies or make use of advanced equipment will except the life of each level. Think of them as the star requirements in Bad Piggies — they're not necessary to progress, but keep you retrying a level.
There's a meta game involving coin collection that ties in with the economy system in place. You see, the coins are used to pay for upgrades; not necessarily requiring you to spend on IAP currency, but this is available as well as a coin doubler. For every zoombie taken down you're rewarded with a small amount of coins. While there are some power-ups that assist you with the collection task, at the beginning you will need to tap on them to collect them. It might sound a little tedious, but the coin tapping is a nice break from the path drawing. This is using multitouch controls in a clever way to test your multitasking skills: killing, protecting and collecting coins.
While the game appears to use the Unreal engine, the only evident 3D action is in the cutscenes. The whole game is 2D with some zooming effects that reveal at times the not so pixel crisp art. The theme chosen is original but leans too heavily on Mexican stereotypes that can become repetitive. Some sound effects in Spanish — specially the voice from zoo owner Don Eduardo — will be annoying from the start.
Perhaps it's the narrator's persistence in hinting at items available in the store or other tips in windows you have to dismiss that makes it tiring. Those would be fine on loading screens, but they just happen to appear every time you complete a level.
Zoombies: Animales de la Muerte ends up being a fun line drawing game like those so popular on the App Store some years ago. Its simplicity doesn't mean the gameplay isn't solid; there are plenty of items to use that will change your strategy for levels you have already completed. The original setting and the art direction chosen, mixing cute cartoon characters with tomato ketchup gore moments is refreshing for a platform that has seen way too many zombie games already.