App of the Week: “The Walking Dead: Assault”

Developer:
Skybound LLC.

Compatible with:
iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5)

iPod Touch 3rd gen and up

iPad

Requires:
iOS 4.3 or later

Price:

$1.99

Available here

Between the amazing 3rd season of the AMC show, and the groundbreaking, incredible, indescribably inventive Telltale Games adventure series, we’ve been treated to more “Walking Dead” goodness this year than anyone could have possible anticipated. Yet for mobile developer Skybound, it wasn’t quite enough as they now bring us yet another reason to celebrate the increasing influence of the Robert Kirkman comic series on the digital world with their gaming app, “The Walking Dead: Assault”.

The game, much like Telltale’s, is based off of the original comic, and not the TV show, which is immediately evident by the appealing visual style, where most everything in the game is smartly presented in black and white except for aspects of characters, items, and blood. It lends a very necessary immediate appeal, and produces that always appreciated (if unwelcome) “someone looking over your shoulder while you play” effect.

Unlike the Telltale masterpiece though, this game is centered more on action than character interaction, as it employs a squad based  mechanic (think “X-Men Legends”) that feels right at home in this world. At its core, it doesn’t stray far from the usual tropes of the genre, as you select a group of 4 characters and take them through a series of levels completing mandatory and optional objectives, while fighting off waves of enemies. Along the way you can improve character and group attributes, acquire a range of supplies and weapons (melee and ranged) and take advantage of character’s unique abilities and group effects such as always hitting head shots for a short period of time, or increasing overall group damage. It makes the careful selection of your group vital and entertaining.

Outside of standard mechanics, the game incorporates some specific aspects of the zombie apocalypse nicely through elements like the sound detection system, which allows you to use environmental distractions to draw zombies (though too much noise will bring down the fury of the entire horde). It also does a nice job of compensating for the limits of the touch mechanics, and everything from managing the group, to managing the camera, is handled smoothly. Meanwhile, features like your group auto firing when enemies are in range help keep the action from being upset by poor design, and really show off the potential of this type of game on the mobile format when done well.

“The Walking Dead: Assault” is designed to perfection, which is great since underneath it all is an intensely fun adventure that’s multiple sections and objectives provide a lengthy experience that satisfies that immediate “kill all zombies” urge, but also lends some real substance to the proceedings with the leveling and ability functions. Thanks to the style and execution of the game, the constant bombardment of action never really feels repetitive, and the story of the comics is well implemented through comic book panel interludes.

Right now the game is only the first in a planned series of chapters, but even if more weren’t on the way, this title would be an easy recommendation. Zombie games are a dime a dozen, and mobile squad games rarely work out as they should, but of course it’s the “Walking Dead” series that again breaks new ground. Much like pulling the trigger on a walker, anyone with a slight interest in this game can’t afford to hesitate and should snatch this app up at the introductory $1.99 price.

It was Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” that theorized that when there is no more room left in hell, the dead will walk the Earth. While that was meant as a warning of the end of days, in this case it’s a welcome happenstance that lends us the chance to play “The Walking Dead: Assault”, a no-brainer (pun very much intended) app of the week.

  

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App of the Week: Endless Road

Developer:
Chillingo Ltd.

Compatible with:
iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5)

iPod Touch 3rd gen and up

iPad

Requires:
iOS 4.3 or later

Price:

$0.99

Available here

With well over 20 million downloads, one of the biggest successes of the mobile gaming era has been “Temple Run”. It’s concept couldn’t be more simple as you control a man perpetually running and avoiding obstacles to escape from a temple. It’s a basic idea executed to perfection, and even helped to popularize its own genre of games in the “endless runner”, a genre that hasn’t exactly been prolific in terms of entries that don’t suck.

One very notable exception was recently released though in Chillingo Ltd’s “Endless Road”. Much like it’s forerunner, the idea is elementary, as you are tasked with driving an endless road and avoiding the obstacles in your path, all while gathering coins to purchase upgrades with that range from new vehicles to paint that trails your wake. Along the way are also various jumps and inlaid arrows that speed you up, and can slow you down.

It would be a very unremarkable and forgettable game if it weren’t for a couple of wrinkles in the formula that enhance the experience. The first is the actual road which is constantly folding in on itself as the section behind you falls in your wake, while the road ahead springs up as you progress. It lends a great visual cue that gives you a constant, and necessary, feeling of tension. This tension is only increased by the game’s expertly used soundtrack, that’s constant driving beats provide the perfect sense of urgency.

But what really sells the title is the amazing graphics. While not pushing any technical limitations, the fact that every stage presents a new theme, color pallet, and always tougher series of unique obstacles, means that you never really encounter a moment that takes you out of the game and makes you realize the basic monotony of what you are doing. Instead, it adds to the already impossible addictive nature of this type of game as you can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

Is this another case of style over substance then? Oh most definitely. But that doesn’t mean the core gameplay concept of attempting to maintain a constant speed of 80 MPH or greater in order to not fall into oblivion isn’t absurdly fun on its own, but rather that even that just serves as a showcase to the abundance of creativity the development team has put into every visual. There’s not a millimeter of screen space that isn’t used to full effect, and little touches like a left and right path at the end of each level leading to different environments exemplify how much Chillingo was able to milk the concept for all of the addictiveness and replayability it is worth.

Much like tower defense titles and “Bejeweled” knock off puzzle games, endless runners should have worn their welcome out by now. However, it’s thanks to games like “Endless Road” that keep people coming back to the genres by providing perfect execution of the original ideas, and very fresh coats of paint.  With everything in this game’s arsenal it perfectly exemplifies the idea of the great Texas country singer Robert Earl Keen who said “the road goes on forever, and the party never ends.”

And if you know me at all, you know any game that lets me quote Robert Earl Keen is going to earn the app of the week.

  

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