There is no way to sugarcoat this: ShaqDown [Free] is not a great game. It is, at best, a merely serviceable game ideal only for anyone ravenously massaging their hands mad scientist-style with anticipation. This also probably is going to really, really bum out Shaq who is himself a hugely outspoken Apple enthusiast.

Sorry Shaq. But what follows is true.

So what went wrong? There is far too much emphasis and reliance on gimmick. ShaqDown starts off in Yemen, which is seemingly ground zero of the zombie apocalypse. Mankind underestimated the zombies, and wound up being enslaved by them. Among the wreckage, though, “[there] was a man that stood up to mutant zombies all by himself. To some he is known as the ‘Dunkman.’ We know him as ‘The Justice Bringer.’” The opening cinematic laying this all out comic-book style is charming, but by the time you’ve hit “buy” in the Apple store, you know all this. Its element of surprise and kitsch has all but worn off.

Also, as it was unrolling on my iPhone 4S, I couldn’t help but think, “Oh, okay: Resident Evil 5 meets Punch Quest meets Dikembe Mutombo's 4 1/2 Weeks to Save the World... with zombies.”

Then again, though, lots of games attempt to cash in or piggyback off popular trends. It makes good business sense. I think what happened with ShaqDown, though, is that it was an unfortunate victim of timing. But even by itself, the game is just exceedingly generic. And slightly confusing in its controls at first.

For example, after dispensing with the opening, you’re set loose on Yemen, which is a seemingly endless track of three sets of parallel sidewalks. For you see, ShaqDown is essentially an endless runner. With zombies.

You have the ability to “uppercut” by jumping up from one track to another and also to chuck a basketball as a “free throw,” and the ability to throw a projectile in an endless runner is cool, but it’s largely untapped. It only comes in handy against the boss battles (it’s the only way to hurt enemies like Ricardo Montalbomb) and also as a defensive measure against zombies that are in the process of turning into hulking mega zombies. The huge zombies you can’t hurt, and will stop you in your tracks instantly if you collide.

But there’s no way of knowing any of this except through trial and error. There’s a control graphic that pops up when you first start, but it just shows you how tapping in different regions will let you do different moves -- but not what they’re for. I got halfway through the game -- there are three levels -- before I realized you don’t actually have to uppercut the lower zombies. You can just commit moving violation after moving violation on them and just run right through them, which takes a lot of the tension out of the game.

The more Shaqra, or points, you earn, the more upgrades or specials you can buy. Some of them you can literally only buy with dollars, like unlocking specials such as the Lee Kemp assist attack, but nearly everything else you can invest points in to unlock new “suits.” The “suits” are really more difficulties, which means you’ll be seeing these three levels an awful lot. Or, there’s also survival mode, in case you wish to go into overtime with ShaqDown.

Ultimately, though, for all its tapdancing there just isn't anything interesting going on here. The concept is solid but the execution is so humdrum. You zig and zag through the levels until you hit the boss, which you pelt with the rock. Then you do it again two more times and then you're done -- unless you wish to continue on in other modes or on harder difficulties.

And sooner or later, the zombies will get you. They haven't freaking died yet, already, have they?

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarNoneNoneNone
  • http://twitter.com/likeacrocodile Like a Crocodile

    Yeh 2 stars, I agree.

  • rabidnz

    Your reviews seem pretty skewed, why is this rehash 2 out of 5 but every angry birds gets a huge push from you guys, despite how much you say you dislike repitition and idea stealing. It definitely feels like you are either getting paid by them or are personal friends of theirs.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Angry Birds games are fantastic. It's cool to disagree, but suggesting we're being paid off by Rovio is pretty dumb when Angry Birds games are universally well received outside of the "I hate everything popular" and "I liked Marilyn Manson before he sold out and started being played on the radio" camps.

      • bradnicholson

        i like Golden Age of the Grotesque and Mechanical Animals. what does that say about me?

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        I can't input this data into my formula without the most vital value in the whole equation: How do you feel about Angry Birds?

      • http://twitter.com/mguniverse Danny Perski

        Based on the fact that I've never purchased an Angry Birds game, I can confirm that they do indeed suck. :P

      • Me

        If you haven't purchased one, how would you know?

      • http://twitter.com/VA1N Scott

        I'm for it!

      • http://twitter.com/VA1N Scott

        Mechanical Animals? You loser...Portrait is where it's at :)

    • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

      It's ironic reading a comment like this as I wait for the water for my top ramen to start boiling.

    • Nate

      I love it ... when they give games high scores they get accused of being shills who don't have any critical standards, and when they give games low scores they get accused of being shills for completely unrelated games that *do* get high scores . . .

      You really should try Angry Birds Star Wars, btw, it's a pretty amazing game.

      • http://twitter.com/alexkunzelmann Alex Kunzelmann

        Perfect score for Ravensword: Shadowlands. An attractive looking open-world RPG that's quite shallow with incredibly bad controls and buggy UI.

        Since I'm entirely self-funded. All of my reviews are primarily of games that I either like, or anticipate I will like. When I say a game is good, I notice that my commission from sales of that particular title are much higher than the games that I say aren't so good.

        Given TouchArcade's relative audience and the fact that on a $6.99 game (they would make approximately $0.21 from each successful click-through sale), it's easy to see why they would potentially fall in to the trap of favoring a particular game.

        I'm not saying that is what is happening, but it's a possibility.

      • toxiccheese

        Nonsense. If this were true then wouldn't they just go ahead and speak favorably of every single game?

      • Jeff432

        There's a decent chance that this is what's happening. It was extremely obvious that Engadget was being paid by Apple a year ago to be biased in favor of Apple, and several years ago, it was very common for the Android news websites to recommend stupid apps that made it clear that they were being paid by that developer. One example was a basic Geico app that one of the Android sites recommended, and the biggest example that every Android website was doing was the articles for the dumb Lookout security app. Almost every Android website was constantly posting very positive articles about that app and completely ignoring the fact that the app is nearly useless.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        "A decent chance?" Do you read TouchArcade? If our sole motivation for doing what we do was maximizing linkshare dollars why do we post so many stories without links at all, or about free games? Wouldn't it stand to reason that we'd almost exclusively review very expensive games? Also, following your line of logic in this conspiracy theory, with our reviews often in line with the general feel of the TouchArcade community that'd mean that... Everyone is in on it?

        I love a good conspiracy as much as anyone else, but you guys are really reaching to put this all together. I wish things were as nefarious as you people suggest, as we'd have something to do in Q1 when it's dead as hell instead of sit in Campfire and post cat pics and Reddit links waiting for someone to release a cool game.

      • http://twitter.com/alexkunzelmann Alex Kunzelmann

        I'm not suggesting that's what's happening in this instance, but *some* of the site's review scores seem skewed. At the end of the day, it's entirely subjective.

        On a curiosity level, I'd love to see LinkShare stats for a site of this size/popularity.

        For the moment, I'm happy with my $5/mo income.

    • toxiccheese

      Did you ever consider that this game might actually suck and that Rovio actually releases highly polished quality apps?

      I may not be a huge fan of the Angry Birds formula, but I also won't deny that they certainly know what they're doing when it comes to quality releases.

    • http://twitter.com/VA1N Scott

      There is a difference between a good game that does a good thing over and over again (angry birds) and a bad game that is repetitive (shaq attack)

  • http://www.Indieflashmob.com/ Trent

    “Oh, okay: Resident Evil 5 meets Punch Quest meets Dikembe Mutombo's 4 1/2 Weeks to Save the World... with zombies.”

    With zombies? What was the reference to resident evil 5 if not to mention zombies?

  • http://matt-curtis.me/ Matt Curtis

    Am I the only one who is terrified to say anything bad about this game because, oh, I don't know, SHAQ HAS TO DO WITH IT?

  • avwave

    It's like Shaq-Fu all over again. Dude can't seem to get a good video game.

  • Rapdood

    i'll wait for the freebie friday...lol

  • http://twitter.com/bigE1669 Erik

    I thought this game was strange because Shaq is in it. Is he even relevant anymore?

  • Chris Nölff

    The reviews on the Apple Store look generic. They all look like they've been written by the same person. Marketing teams found a loophole for fake reviews and ratings. This seems to be the case with this app.

ShaqDown Reviewed by David Wolinsky on . Rating: 2