Just like the living undead that inspire them, zombie-themed iOS games never seem to die as new releases shuffle onto the field every week. Dead City (Free) from Com2uS is the latest dual-stick zombie genocide simulator to hit the market. While Dead City works well in its role of a simplistic zombie killer, its freemium underpinnings coupled with a general lack of anything new hold it back.
Dead City plays like a combination of a level-based endless runner mixed with a dual-stick shooter. Levels are divided into ‘days’ that throw you into the middle of a zombie throng that has your character automatically running towards the sanctuary of a chain-link fence. Along the way you’ll be shooting every which way at a wide variety of zombies, earning coins for the undead you kill. Also scattered are first-aid kits and fuel; collect enough gas and you’ll summon a vehicle that gives you temporary invulnerability as well as a damage boost.
Coins are the name of the game in Dead City, and everything you do is towards the collection of them. Each day is scored by the total amount of zombies killed, and coin bonuses are awarded for hitting the top ranks. You’ll use said coins to unlock and upgrade a wide variety of guns and armor, which allows you to kill bigger and badder enemies and collect more coins… and so on.
There’s little in terms of strategy other than aiming for the head, avoiding the throngs of enemies, and upgrading your weapons and armor with the coin you earn. It’s a bit of a rat race that’ll either bore you or hook you.
With that said, while there’s not much to the core mechanics of Dead City, what it does have is implemented well. Each level is fast and furious with decent control mechanics. The visual style lends itself to a survival-shooter that sets the mood while not taking itself too seriously. There’s also a wide variety of weapons and armor, each with their own effects and upgrade capabilities. I also appreciated the fact that most upgrades are actually meaningful and give you a great chance to beat later, harder days.
The pacing is also pretty well done. It’s easy to replay missions to earn more coin, and the use of a thief zombie that rewards you a chance to increase your gold at the end of a mission (as well as the possibility of earning items that can only be bought via IAP) is a nice way of potentially increasing your horde. There are some challenging missions as you get towards the middle sections of the game, but Dead City allows you to overcome most of it through coin collection and equipment upgrades.
Of course, for those that don’t want to work at the game, Dead City offers you options in IAP and different versions of the game. Dead City comes in two different flavors, a free version and a “Plus” offering that, unfortunately, doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from the free version. In fact, it feels like the only difference between the two is the large amount of coins you get in the premium version. Both have the same ads, freemium mechanics, and IAP. I was hoping that the premium version would at least convert the items that require cash to in-game currency or do anything to curb the freemium aspects, but I don’t see anything of that sort. It’s really disappointing, because I’m sure a lot of folks would shell out for a premium version of an app that converted a freemium game into a normal one.
In addition, some of the IAP just felt excessive in terms of power and price. Normally I don’t care much when developers offer ‘win buttons’ as IAP, but there’s just something about Dead City’s expensive IAP guns that rubs me the wrong way. It might have something to do with the fact the majority of the leaderboards and rankings are based on total kills, so anyone spending this much on IAP can simply storm the rankings and easily outrank anyone trying to play it ‘straight.’ Of course, this isn’t a new issue at this point.
Meanwhile, Dead City still plays like a competent zombie-killer if you’re willing to overlook the IAP and leaderboards. I imagine there is a select group of players that like moving from game to game in this sort of genre. If so, Dead City is for you. For others, at least the entry fee is low enough that you can check to see if this simple shooter is of interest.