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‘Please Stay Calm’ Review – Zombies in Your Neighborhood

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Like most geeks, I’ve spent some time thinking about the best place to go in case of a zombie apocalypse. My pick is always Costco — food, weapons and big solid doors all in one place. Since that plan is unlikely to ever have any real world value, I’ve taken the opportunity to barricade my local big-box against the zombie horde in Please Stay Calm [Free], a new location-based MMO from Massive Damage Inc.

If you’ve ever played a game like Mafia Wars, you’ll have some idea of what to expect in Please Stay Calm. It’s similar in design, but it takes place in your neighborhood. The world has been overrun by zombies, and you’re a survivor. You’ll need to scavenge for resources, build up a safehouse and a good team, and gun down the undead — and a few of your fellow survivors.

The world Please Stay Calm inhabits is one that’s on the edge of destruction. Zombies are everywhere, the government has been useless, and the survivors are on their own — almost. The app ties you into the CVC, a network of survivors that connects you with missions, a black market and chat. While this is all done up in a simple informational interface, presenting the package as an app for survivors adds a nice bit of immersion.

As a survivor, two tasks will occupy most of your time: hunting zombies and scavenging for supplies. As you explore your neighborhood, you can visit nearby stores and landmarks. Without leaving your home, you can investigate the corner store across the street and strip it of a portion of its useful resources. Searching for supplies opens a top-down minigame where you seek out static dots that represent supplies and cash while dodging the dots that represent zombies. Hunting zombies brings up another minigame. Two dimensional zombies assault your screen while you try to pick the right weapon to use from a flashing selection screen. Both are reflex tests, so care and quickness will see you through alive.

Winning a fight or surviving a scavenging hunt rewards you with cash and supplies, two of the many, many numbers you’ll need to pay attention to in this game. Some supplies can be taken to the black market and sold for cash, others are a currency on their own. You’ve also got health to worry about, stamina, and energy — you can’t investigate without energy. Then there are credits, the premium currency for Please Stay Calm. They can be converted to supplies and cash. Supplies upgrade equipment and pay for health packs, credits pay for items that restore stamina and energy (and public chat, strangely), and cash gives you equipment. Lost yet?

Eventually your assortment of bars will refill for free, so the patient among us can play without paying. Then you can go back to hunting. If that was all there was to the game it would get old fast, but there’s always more to do. Like any MMO, Please Stay Calm is better with friends. You can choose one nearby location as your safehouse and use your supplies to upgrade it. Not only do you end up with an awesome stronghold, but its stats effect yours in battle. More friends in your safehouse means more people to cooperate with, and everyone knows you can’t survive a zombie apocalypse alone.

There are a few other things to do in Please Stay Calm. You can duel other players to earn cash, supplies and experience. As you level up you’ll get access to missions that carry the storyline and offer great rewards. You can build outposts and harvest them for cash or supplies. And Massive Damage Inc. has more planned: they’ve hinted at turf wars, crafting systems and more of everything else. Still, without those things Please Stay Calm feels like it’s still a bit beta, still somewhat unfinished.

The location-based MMO is a genre still growing into its own. Location-based anything is still quite new — only since we’ve had GPS technology in our phones has it really caught on. Please Stay Calm is a fun example of where the genre is today, but ultimately it feels like a novelty. You can tie it into Foursquare, and then it’s a more social novelty. If, like me, you’re waiting for the killer app of this genre, you’ll have to keep waiting, but Please Stay Calm is a satisfying way to pass the time till then. If you want to share your zombie-slaying exploits on your way to the top of the leaderboards, stop by our discussion thread.

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