In our review of 2013: Infected Wars last week, I complained that the game couldn’t seem to decide if it wanted to be a console game or a mobile game and ended up choosing the worst aspects of both. I don’t want to start harping on it again unfairly, as I did manage to wring some fun out of the game, but I think it’s instructive to bring it up here. I wanted more. I wanted Dead Effect.

Dead-1Dead Effect (out now, $3.99) by inDev Brain and Bulkypix knows exactly what it wants to be. It’s perfectly comfortable being a mobile game inspired by its console big brothers, rather than taking from them and trying to squeeze those aspects uncomfortably into what should ultimately stay a mobile game. It’s a first person shooter that controls well, looks great, and has play sessions that are the perfect length for gaming on the go.

The premise is pretty typical stuff. You’re trapped on a spaceship full of undead soldiers and scientists, seemingly the result of experimentation gone wrong. You need to make your way through 12 different levels shooting and zapping a nice variety of zombies and the occasional boss (including, at the end, the mad scientist responsible for the whole mess). The first thing you’ll notice is how buttery smooth everything is. The controls and framerate just feel… right. Moving around the environments is a pleasure that touchscreen FPS games rarely achieve. It will never be as good as a mouse and keyboard, but it’s about as close as it gets without physical buttons. My one complaint would be that the fire button is painfully small and I found myself missing it in the heat of battle more than I would have liked to.

Expanding on a point I mentioned earlier, my favorite part of the game is how flexible it is with your time. If you want to get from point A to B while popping zombies’ heads off, they’ve got you covered; most levels can be completed in about 5 to 10 minutes if that’s your thing. However, if you’ve got a little more time, the game rewards exploration. The levels are littered with hidden goodies to collect, lockers to loot, and extra rooms to check out. You’ll find ammo for your weapons, cash to upgrade them, orbs to unlock extra tidbits about the game world, and tablets for… well, I’m not sure what the tablets are for. But they’re there if you look hard enough!

dead_effect1Another neat addition is the bullet time skill you eventually gain. You’ll enter most rooms in the later levels by hitting the bullet time button, watching everything go all orange and wavy and slow, and then loading up zombies with bullets while running circles around them. It’s a blast. What’s really great, however, is that sometimes I’d forget I even had that power and still had tons of fun shooting zombies the old fashioned way.

Eventually you’ll come across upgrade pods that give your suit enhanced abilities, like faster movement or longer bullet time. Unfortunately, there are only a few and they’re one time use so you won’t be able to upgrade every component of your suit. I tried to upgrade everything evenly and got to the end of the game with each component only slightly upgraded, rather than making one or two things super powerful like I probably should have. Choose wisely.

In the end, it’s actually kinda tough trying to explain why I love this game so much. I freely admit that on paper it doesn’t look that special, but once you jump in everything just feels great. I ended up playing through the game two and a half times just for the fun of it, and to try to buy and fully upgrade more weapons. Dead Effect hits all the right buttons, and I can’t wait to see where (or if?) it evolves with further updates.

iFanzine Verdict: Dead Effect is a fairly typical zombie shooter that manages to do everything it sets out to do nearly perfectly. You won’t be shown anything radically new, but it doesn’t matter too much when everything feels so right. Consider it great comfort food. With zombies. In space.