Like many iOS gamers I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told myself, “I will never, ever, pick up another zombie-themed game again!” But along comes this gem from Lonely Few, which explores what may be the very last frontier of zombie games — one that puts you in charge of eating all the Brainsss (Out Now, $2.99)!
As noted in our hands-on preview in March, the general idea is that you start each level with a few zombies and grow them into a giant swarm by rounding up all humans for conversion — a task that requires you to creatively leverage dead ends and cul-de-sacs in level design. While it’s technically a casual action game, Brainsss’ focus on tactical maneuver gives it a quality that should strongly appeal to Real Time Strategy fans. You direct your zombies with a point-to-point movement system: first swipe over zombies to activate them, then give the group a destination with a tap. The activated zombies will convert – ahem, “befriend” – any humans they contact along the way, and they can be re-routed at any time as the situation develops.
Brainsss hits that perfect sweet spot between casual accessibility and the level of depth that will interest hardened gamers. Armed humans – police patrols and outright army – have to be attacked en masse and from multiple directions; try the frontal approach and you’re just asking for your swarm to get mowed down. In addition to the vanilla “convert all humans” levels, Brainsss serves up missions where you have to interrupt helicopter escapes, survive an army onslaught, and meet other goals that really take advantage of maneuver.
The upgrade system is interesting: you get varying amounts of credits to go with your level performance but extra speed, endurance and other perks are tied to missions rather than being permanently applied to your zombies. That’s just as well, as it encourages you to strategically spend your budget on levels that offer the toughest resistance. A “Rage” meter provides yet another strategic element, filling as enemies are conquered and giving your zombies an all-purpose adrenaline boost when called upon — very useful for taking down swift footed or armed targets.
An obvious question is what happens when you’ve got a closely packed crowd of zombies but you want to split them up to corner your targets. Thankfully the developer has you covered here: a button at the bottom-right screen corner dis-activates roughly half the zombies that are currently under your control, making for easy splits on the fly. Brainsss’ levels grow huge in short order and timing is of the essence if you’re into Game Center achievements or upgrade credits. That being the case, it’s a relief that you can pan around and plan infinitely before you kick off a mission with your first zombie-activating swipe. The sheer size of Brainsss’ levels is the only thing I could pick at, as it can take a while to track down your zombie teams once you’ve scattered them to the four winds. That said, the devs made a good faith effort to help you out with dots along the screen edges that give you a general idea where player and enemy units lie.
Rather than go for the usual horror overtones, Brainsss opts for a lighthearted atmosphere punctuated by an easygoing soundtrack and tons of cute little quips from the humans getting chased by your zombies. The game even shows you little comic strips as your reward for clearing each of its level sets.
iFanzine Verdict: Whether you’re a casual gamer who can stand one last zombie title or a long-time RTS buff, rest assured Brainsss’ price tag reflects high quality. It’s a beautifully implemented squad-based title that offers plenty of depth while shoring itself up against the weaknesses you might expect to find in the genre.