"Finger Cramps of the Dead"
Sometimes a game can have an interface flaw so fundamental that it can't be overcome by even the best game design. If simply controlling the main character is uncomfortable, there isn't much incentive to explore the whole game. Examples of this problem include the Virtual Boy, tacked-on motion controls of too many Wii games, and now, the pinching mechanic of Zombie Burst.
Like many contemporary zombie games, Zombie Burst realizes that the walking dead have oversaturated popular culture to the point where they can't be taken seriously, so they don't even bother. After an important-looking series of text screens about the apocalypse coming through the water filtration system, Zombie Burst gets to the point: you have strong hands and use them to crush zombie heads. You do so by dragging your fingers together in a pinching motion, popping the zombie head like a zit. In each level, you have to stay alive for a certain amount of time by keeping the zombies from advancing to the foreground, with three misses meaning a game over. Worse yet, when the zombies' heads burst, the green goo that used to be their brains covers the screen, and it has to be quickly swiped off before blinding you.
In theory, this is the material for a superb iOS game. In practice, Zombie Burst is frustrating and even painful. The problem lies in the pinching motion integral to the game's controls. Unless you have very small fingers, dragging your thumb and index finger together is imprecise and clumsy. Your two fingertips won't slide fast enough to smoosh all the hordes of zombies, especially in later levels with faster, more resilient coffers. Even if you become skilled enough at the pinching motion to beat the levels, it's still an extremely uncomfortable motion that will eventually cause physical pain. It's hard to have fun when the joints in your fingers start to cramp after only a few minutes.
This is a tremendous shame, because there's a lot of great work that went into Zombie Burst. The graphics are beautifully hand-drawn, with impressive animations and personality for the zombies. The sounds create a nice atmosphere, especially with the delightful squish made after each zombie death. There are plenty of levels and achievements, and if you can withstand the cramps, there's plenty for you to do. Unfortunately, that will be a big "if" for most gamers.
GameDynamo's Score for Zombie Burst (Mobile)
Neil Kapit is a freelance writer, cartoonist, and "La Li Lu Le Lo" agent based in Los Angeles. His work can be seen on www.therubynation.com.
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