A celebratory re-release of Age of Zombies just about makes sense: it’s a year-old game that sold reasonably well, and with hero Barry Steakfries making a real name for himself in the sublime Jetpack Joyride, Halfbrick evidently felt it was time for a repeat showing.
In case you’re not familiar with the original, it features the wisecracking hero travelling through time to kill the undead in a variety of eras. So, in prehistoric times you’ll get to blast a zombie dinosaur, then it’s off to gangster-ridden 1930s Chicago before Barry hotfoots it to Egypt, Feudal Japan, and the future, turning brain-munchers to mulch all the way.
Undead and loving it
In mechanical terms, it’s as straightforward as they come – you place your thumbs on two on-screen sticks, which move around according to where you’ve positioned your digits. Left controls movement, right the direction you shoot in.
You’ll encounter the occasional issue if and when you lift your thumbs from the screen, and occasionally you’ll move the right stick instead of activating the button for your currently-equipped projectile weapon situated just above. It’s rarely fatal, but can be a little annoying in the heat of the merciless slaughter.
Still, it looks terrific. The action is smooth and fittingly frantic, there’s plenty of blood, and there's a large selection of weapons to collect, from SMGs and rifles to flamethrowers, twin magnums, and a shotgun.
Tickets to the gun show
You also have a limited supply of more powerful killing tools at your disposal - turrets, mines, and bazookas joining the default grenades. Throughout you’ll encounter enormous bosses that take a lot of rounds before they eventually drop.
The graphics are crisper than the original, looking resplendent on Retina display. There are three new western-themed stages to boot, with a gargantuan final boss that represents a serious challenge, while a Survival mode turns stages into high score challenges to add replay value.
Playing through the game again is a reminder that the humour in the dialogue is a little forced, with Steakfries making cheesy jokes on a regular basis between - and even during – the game’s 18 stages.
While the odd line can be mildly amusing, it feels like the game's trying too hard at times. That said, it’s a welcome attempt to inject personality into a game that, at its core, is very generic.
In some ways, it’s hard to see why Age of Zombies was so successful in the first place. It’s decent, sure, but no classic. Levels are sensibly sized for portable play, but Halfbrick provides little in the way of variety. Each stage just feels like a reskin of the last.
That’s not to say it can’t be a blast in treat-sized portions. As long as you don’t try to play through the campaign in one sitting, you’ll find it fills a hole in between more substantial iOS titles, even if you tire of Steakfries’s constant quips.
Whether this revision is worthwhile for those who bought the original is debatable. If the idea of Survival mode appeals, the extras will be a nice bonus. If not, sharper graphics and a few new levels probably aren’t enough to warrant shelling out again.