Listen up, you maggot-filled men, this here is the apocalypse and it’s all of your jobs to shamble forth – in single file no less – and consume every last brain you find until no living people remain! There will be tanks, helicopters, run away cars, bombs and crumbling highway sections that will try to get in your way; however, we the undead have superior numbers and could care less if a few of us get sacrificed in the name of bringing about a glorious Armageddon. Along the way it will be absolutely vital that you collect every last inexplicably floating coin you find, because – above all else – everyone knows that us zombies love having a wide variety of hats to wear upon our brainless heads.
Mobigame’s recent Zombie Carnaval (out now, $0.99) is yet another endless runner game for the iOS platform, but with far more love paid to its claymation-esque appearance than virtually all of the competition. All of the zombies in your infernal conga line have variable appearances such that they don’t all look the same, there are also many different backgrounds you will run through with lovingly crafted and animated parallax layers, and even things like the lottery tickets that you regularly receive have mock legal disclaimer text on them in fine print. The only down side to all of the game’s overwhelming visual panache is that so much of it is locked away from the player when they first start playing; this makes the earliest few play sessions far more boring than when the game really begins to open up, but I will cover more on that later.
Zombie Carnaval features a control scheme that is deceptively simple looking at first glance, all you do is tap to jump, but actually has an amazing amount of depth when you start to really delve into it. First of all – unlike a lot of iOS games – the height of your zombie horde’s jump is not fixed, but is instead determined by how long you hold down after initiating the leap. Once you execute a jump the zombies at the back of your undead destruction train will follow suit in a roughly wave like motion, but some of them will always jump out of synch because zombies aren’t the brightest of creatures.
However, your control over your jumping ability – despite the game’s simple input method – goes well beyond merely controlling how high your pack of brain thirsty minions leap. The zombies’ descent will be slowed down if you continue to hold the screen after your decaying horde has reached optimum altitude, but once you let go you won’t be able to do anything again until they first touch terra firma. In this way you have a great deal of control over the exact location where your zombie horde touches down, which is really useful in matters involving lots of obstacles or tiny sections of roadway. Furthermore – particularly when your zombie train gets to be rather long – if you don’t release the button quickly, then the slowed motion may cause the tail end of the undead conga line to still be on the ground when the oncoming obstacle reaches them.
Outside of just avoiding obstacles and clearing chasms, your jumping ability in Zombie Carnaval is also used – in a step that seems heavily lifted from Super Mario Bros. – for collecting coins and hitting floating question mark blocks. The coins themselves can be spent on a variety of things such as one shot items that temporarily bend the rules of the game, a variety of hats for your zombies that will be used at random each time you convert another person, as well as various permanent upgrades to the various power ups you can find in the aforementioned question blocks. You can also – the same as virtually all other games released on the iOS platform – buy more coins through Zombie Carnaval’s IAP system, although the amount of money given versus the cost paid seems far more generous here than in similar games.
However, far more so than either jumping or IAPs, the actual primary method of collecting coins in Zombie Carnaval is through the game’s mission system, which constantly assigns the player a series of esoteric goals. Every time you complete one of the game’s goals – such as collecting 10 brains in a row without amassing more than 5 zombies in the process – part of a chemistry potion will be filled, once the vial fills up completely you will be rewarded with ever increasing sums of money. The constantly changing nature of these special missions, which will always challenge you to do things you generally wouldn’t do otherwise, go a long way in keeping the game from ever becoming too repetitive.
Another way of getting money is through the scratch off lottery tickets you get every time you manage to eat 100 brains in total, and as a nice touch you actually use your finger to scratch off the silver paint. The potential rewards from these not only include cash, but also various single use items and entirely new locations for your horde to bring their single file apocalypse through as well. Of the additional environments you can unlock this way, I must say that I really liked the Mount Rushmore background where you can see an army of zombies adding an undead face to the famous landmark by gnawing on the stone in unison with their teeth.
The previously mentioned question blocks add a lot of the game’s quirky charm by allowing your zombie horde to temporarily take various powered up forms with special abilities. These includes things such as zombie ninjas that have the ability to double-jump, quarterback zombies that have the ability to head butt their way through obstacles unscathed, and a Chinese parade dragon that has the ability to fly through the air for long distances. The aforementioned attention to small details also carries over to these power ups with things such as how the quarterback zombies constantly chant “Hut-hut-hut-hut, BRAINS!” as they plow forward through everything.
As I already mentioned much earlier in this review, a great deal of Zombie Carnaval’s visual charm is – in order to give players something to strive for – simply not available at first. This means that early on the player is faced with an army of bland non-hat wearing zombies, and a singular background that endlessly repeats itself over and over without variation. This is unfortunate because it is also at the beginning of the game that the player will face the most difficulty in getting anywhere; this is not just because they aren’t yet familiar with the game, but also because the various permanent upgrades – particularly the ones that increase your starting horde size – are extremely vital to making good progress in your quest to spread the apocalypse. The end result of all this is that Zombie Carnaval becomes a far more enjoyable experience after some time has been spent playing it in order to unlock much of the diverse charm that makes the game so special.
iFanzine Verdict: When it comes to visual presentation, Zombie Carnaval’s amazing hyper-detailed retina-supporting claymation-esque graphics stand well above pretty much any other competitor in the genre of endless runners. Furthermore, the game’s deceptively simple looking jump mechanic is actually very deep and leads to an extreme amount of control over your horde’s leaping ability. This in turn allows Zombie Carnaval to send various complex jumping situations at the player that would be absolutely impossible to navigate with the controls of most other endless runner games. The only down side here is that the colossal amounts of unlockable content available in the game means that most of what makes Zombie Carnaval such a blast to watch isn’t immediately available when the player first purchases the title.