In our current fast-paced internet age, oftentimes classical arts and literature take a back seat to silly YouTube clips and 30-second Flash games. In times like these, just how do you get a generation prone to short attention spans and low-brow humor interested in a two hundred year old classic novel? Simple, you add zombies. And ninjas. This is precisely what author Seth Grahame-Smith has done with Jane Austen's critically acclaimed work Pride and Prejudice with the aptly titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Taking the original text, he interjects his own bits of zombie and kung-fu fiction to come up with an alternate telling of the story. The results are borderline brilliant. Austen's quintessential tale of life as a young woman in late 1700's/early 1800's aristocratic English society juxtaposed with campy B-movie style zombie and ninja undertones makes for incredibly humorous storytelling. Others seem to agree as well, as the mash-up novel rose to #3 on New York Times bestseller list following it's release in April 2009.

Now, the fine folks at Freeverse have teamed up with the publisher of the novel Quirk Classics to bring the video game iteration of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies [$2.99] to the iPhone. It's a 2D side-scrolling beat 'em up similar to Final Fight, Streets of Rage, or TMNT Arcade of years past. The presentation of the game is a total success, both visually appealing and rife with bizarre humor. Unfortunately the gameplay itself isn't quite as strong, and feels somewhat shallow and repetitive. Surprisingly, this doesn't hamper the overall experience of the game that much, as the story is hilarious and remains a lot of fun to play through.

The graphics in PPZ look appropriate to the era, with sketch-style illustrations comprising the smoothly animated characters and backgrounds. It looks like a storybook come to life. The game is broken into 12 separate chapters from the book. The level of description in the game is obviously not as thorough as Austen's original novel, although it does hit on all the major plot-points. You are the second oldest of five daughters, Elizabeth Bennet, struggling to find love and social acceptance in England at the turn of the 19th century. You are also the most skilled warrior in your family. Your mother wants nothing more than to see you married to a wealthy gentleman and secure your future. You want nothing more than to worry about your own future, and marry for true love rather than money. You'll do anything to defend your family's honor from public opinion while defending their lives from the constant threat of zombie infection.

What works so incredibly well and makes the game so funny is how nonchalantly the zombie aspect is integrated into the story. Take the very first chapter for example. One minute you're attending a hoity-toity ball discussing with your sisters which male guests would make suitable husbands, the next you're fighting off an onslaught of the undead who've decided to crash the party. The game then delves into the awesomely absurd when you are channeled by your Shaolin Master and reminded to “remember your training” as you're guided through the controls. At the end of the level, even more inexplicably, the five sisters combine powers Voltron lion-style to attack a large mob of zombies. Then, just as quickly as the madness breaks out, it's right back to the topic of marriage like nothing even happened. It's this kind of sharp contrast in events and cavalier attitude towards the zombie infestation that made the book such a success, and it translates to the visual extremely well in the iPhone game.

As mentioned, the gameplay is of the classic beat 'em up style. Enemies will attack from every angle as you progress from left to right through the various levels. A small control stick controls Elizabeth's movement and a single screen tap executes a basic attack with her katana sword. There's also an impressive advanced move set that uses simple swipe gestures to allow for many different special maneuvers. Swiping diagonally upwards performs an uppercut slash, or swiping diagonally downwards performs a sliding kick, as examples. There's a lot of depth to the moves you can pull off with such simple commands, and each one is upgradeable after completing a level (in what is amusingly named the Dojo).

It sounds really great on paper, but falters a bit in execution. Some of these special moves are unwieldy to use in the heat of battle, and the majority of the time your best offense is your basic katana slash. This degrades the gameplay into furious button-mashing. My finger literally got sore from all the tapping. This isn't entirely surprising, as that is historically the nature of this type of game. It's a shame though, because the upgrade system and arsenal of moves are interesting and well designed, they just aren't that useful. When I did try to get fancy with my attacks, it often cost me more damage than if I had just kept on spamming my katana. The couple of exceptions to this are an Earth-shaking move (swipe up to jump and quickly swipe down while in the air to pound the ground) and a spinning katana slash (swipe down while on the ground to spin with your blade à la Baraka from Mortal Kombat II). These two moves proved to be the most functional for me out of the whole arsenal.

Monotonous gameplay aside, I really enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It does enough right presentation and story-wise to hold your interest, and is filled with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. It's a fairly short ride, and is definitely on the easy side, but has some replayability in the form of going back and attaining medals for every level. You are scored on how quickly you beat a level, how much life you have left, and on your style, which is how much variety you put into your attack patterns with special moves. Plus+ integration offers achievements and leaderboards to round out the package, giving even more incentive to go back and replay. Still, PPZ works even as just a one-off experience, and for the fraction of the cost of going to the movies you can spend a few hours engrossed in this odd tale on your iPhone.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarNone
  • coolgaming

    Just awesome.

  • coolgaming

    Just awesome.

  • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

    The special moves seem to be working better for me that they did for you, Jared. But otherwise, I fully agree with your review.

  • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

    The special moves seem to be working better for me that they did for you, Jared. But otherwise, I fully agree with your review.

  • ultimo

    Is this tht Samurai game with a diff skin?

    • http://touchaholics.com jacques b

      nope. not at all. this is a side scrolling beat em up with more creative controls than a slew of buttons

  • http://doesnothaveoneyet ultimo

    Is this tht Samurai game with a diff skin?

    • http://touchaholics.com jacques b

      nope. not at all. this is a side scrolling beat em up with more creative controls than a slew of buttons

  • rich_952000

    Nice review Jared!

  • rich_952000

    Nice review Jared!

  • sammysin

    That does it, buying for sure.

  • sammysin

    That does it, buying for sure.

  • Howard

    But.....why?

    • Mister Mumbles

      That's what I felt like when I first stumbled onto the book. Sounded like complete garbage to me, and I doubt I'll ever bother reading this degradation of a classic work of literature.

      • http://www.betomachado.com Beto

        Jane Austen fans say the book is amazing. Literary critics say the book is amazing. Entertainment critics say the book is amazing.

        You don't know what you're talking about.

      • Mister Mumbles

        Just because others like it doesn't mean that I'll have to like it as well. =P

        In the end, it's still a bastardization of a classic work no matter how good or bad people perceive it to be.

      • TKO

        Surely its presence doesn't lessen the original work. It's like a Star Wars fan being offended at its spoofs, or a music-lover being offended at Weird Al Yankovic. Works' such as these better validate the importance in the original, and can only be best appreciated by those who love the original.

        I'd suggest disliking the Zombies revision is no more valid than disliking the presence of Mr Bennet and his wry humour. (Or Jar-Jar? Oops.. scratch that.) :) Zombies isn't supposed to degrade Pride any more than Cherry Coke could degrade Coke Classic. (Don't get me onto Vanilla though..)

        Intellectually I love the idea of a whole sub-story being infused in an already existing one while retaining the narrative flow. I consider it a fine writing challenge. Much like completing a game of ADOM without melee, you could look at the base idea and go "well, that's just stupid." But to actually do so involves a shift of strategy that isn't without merit.

        To consider a revision/modernization bad from the mere concept is IMHO rather limiting, isn't it? Should the Coen brothers have discarded "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" the second they realised they were re-writing Homer's Odyssey? Should Battlestar Galactica never have been remade/reimagined? (Or, indeed, was it heresy to recast Starbuck as a female?) Should Baz Lurhmann have kept the heck away from "Romeo and Juliet"? Should Rolf Harris never have remixed "Stairway to Heaven"? :p

        Okay, I could ramble on and on. ;) ..Not trying to say you're wrong. Just suggesting you might like the re-imagining if you gave it a chance. Besides, had Zombies not been written we would be missing the wonderful line: ..Mr. Bennett’s voice cut through
        the commotion. "Girls! Pentagram of Death!"

  • Howard

    But.....why?

    • Mister Mumbles

      That's what I felt like when I first stumbled onto the book. Sounded like complete garbage to me, and I doubt I'll ever bother reading this degradation of a classic work of literature.

      • http://www.betomachado.com Beto

        Jane Austen fans say the book is amazing. Literary critics say the book is amazing. Entertainment critics say the book is amazing.

        You don't know what you're talking about.

      • Mister Mumbles

        Just because others like it doesn't mean that I'll have to like it as well. =P

        In the end, it's still a bastardization of a classic work no matter how good or bad people perceive it to be.

      • TKO

        Surely its presence doesn't lessen the original work. It's like a Star Wars fan being offended at its spoofs, or a music-lover being offended at Weird Al Yankovic. Works' such as these better validate the importance in the original, and can only be best appreciated by those who love the original.

        I'd suggest disliking the Zombies revision is no more valid than disliking the presence of Mr Bennet and his wry humour. (Or Jar-Jar? Oops.. scratch that.) :) Zombies isn't supposed to degrade Pride any more than Cherry Coke could degrade Coke Classic. (Don't get me onto Vanilla though..)

        Intellectually I love the idea of a whole sub-story being infused in an already existing one while retaining the narrative flow. I consider it a fine writing challenge. Much like completing a game of ADOM without melee, you could look at the base idea and go "well, that's just stupid." But to actually do so involves a shift of strategy that isn't without merit.

        To consider a revision/modernization bad from the mere concept is IMHO rather limiting, isn't it? Should the Coen brothers have discarded "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" the second they realised they were re-writing Homer's Odyssey? Should Battlestar Galactica never have been remade/reimagined? (Or, indeed, was it heresy to recast Starbuck as a female?) Should Baz Lurhmann have kept the heck away from "Romeo and Juliet"? Should Rolf Harris never have remixed "Stairway to Heaven"? :p

        Okay, I could ramble on and on. ;) ..Not trying to say you're wrong. Just suggesting you might like the re-imagining if you gave it a chance. Besides, had Zombies not been written we would be missing the wonderful line: ..Mr. Bennett’s voice cut through
        the commotion. "Girls! Pentagram of Death!"

  • porkchop1234

    I don't mean to rile anyone up with my comments and please don't get me wrong I love games but I love books and especially the classics even more. This bastardization of Jane Austin's most famous work in my eyes is an abomination. I won't waste my time reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and doubt I would ever waste my time playing the game even if it was ever to become free. I'm all for the progressive thinker but some things shouldn't be messed with especially great works of literature. Whats next some hack does a War And Peace goes Rambo takeoff? People who have read the original Pride And Prejudice and appreciate good literature know where I'm coming from.

  • porkchop1234

    I don't mean to rile anyone up with my comments and please don't get me wrong I love games but I love books and especially the classics even more. This bastardization of Jane Austin's most famous work in my eyes is an abomination. I won't waste my time reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and doubt I would ever waste my time playing the game even if it was ever to become free. I'm all for the progressive thinker but some things shouldn't be messed with especially great works of literature. Whats next some hack does a War And Peace goes Rambo takeoff? People who have read the original Pride And Prejudice and appreciate good literature know where I'm coming from.

  • someguy

    If people were taking a book of mine and using it for mashups 200 years in the future, I'd be tickled pink. I'm sure most artists would be. How this in any way detracts from the original, which will surely outlast being played around with, I have no idea. It's art - it mutates. Like zombies. I take it you don't enjoy any cover versions of songs? Even Bob Dylan liked Jimi Hendrix's version of "All Along the Watchtower," admiring how he took it and made it his own. Nothing wrong with having high standards, but progressive thinkers know the past ain't sacred. And a War & Peace Rambo takeoff sounds like fun. Might get a few people to read the original, you know.

    • TKO

      Amen SomeGuy. Better said and less-rambly than I was headed for. Many works can end up better or, at the very least, interesting with a new perspective. Expansion on a universe doesn't have to overshadow the original. If after reading you truly don't like it, that's fine too. But to consider it bad without even having read it? IMHO that's just foolish. Concept doesn't equal implementation.

  • someguy

    If people were taking a book of mine and using it for mashups 200 years in the future, I'd be tickled pink. I'm sure most artists would be. How this in any way detracts from the original, which will surely outlast being played around with, I have no idea. It's art - it mutates. Like zombies. I take it you don't enjoy any cover versions of songs? Even Bob Dylan liked Jimi Hendrix's version of "All Along the Watchtower," admiring how he took it and made it his own. Nothing wrong with having high standards, but progressive thinkers know the past ain't sacred. And a War & Peace Rambo takeoff sounds like fun. Might get a few people to read the original, you know.

    • TKO

      Amen SomeGuy. Better said and less-rambly than I was headed for. Many works can end up better or, at the very least, interesting with a new perspective. Expansion on a universe doesn't have to overshadow the original. If after reading you truly don't like it, that's fine too. But to consider it bad without even having read it? IMHO that's just foolish. Concept doesn't equal implementation.

  • Mintey

    Jesus,this game is awesome.

  • Mintey

    Jesus,this game is awesome.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Reviewed by Jared Nelson on . Rating: 3.5