Dead Panic

Dead Panic
Dead Panic Cover
Platforms iPhone
Genre Zombie tactical shooter

Zombie games are gaming's latest craze gone wild. With the popularity of zombie shooter Left 4 Dead at its peak, Call of Duty: World at War featuring a Nazi zombie mode, and old classics like Zombies Ate My Neighbors being re-released on the Virtual Console, a zombie outbreak is as ripe of setting as ever. Independent developer Sean Maher has brought the classic hobby of mowing down zombies to the iPhone now with Dead Panic, a tactical zombie shooter. Dead Panic is light on story, but heavy on difficult scenarios for your soldiers to survive. The premise is simple: strategically place your soldiers, and let loose horde.

Dead Panic is our first indie game review of 2010, we'll be featuring five more indie-developed games throughout the month of February. Dead Panic is available on the Apple App Store right now for the very reasonable price of $1.99.

What was awesome: The object of the game is obvious: survive. At the beginning of each mission, you can see the area you'll need to defend against the horde. Place your available soldiers on to the battlefield and press the Play button. Once the zombies have begun attacking, you are not allowed to move your soldiers anymore. This may sound a bit odd, but it makes for a few less things you'll have to worry about and it puts more focus on the strategy aspects of the game than the action. You can't physically move your guys, but you can direct in which direction you want them to aim. I haven't had very good luck with fast-paced games on the iPhone (or iPod Touch) that require you to move stuff around quickly, but the controls are very solid in Dead Panic. You see a green cone that shows you exactly where they will shoot if anything walks, crawls, or flies into that area.

Sometimes the levels are set up so you can kind of sit back and relax a bit and let your initial setup do its business, but more often than not, you're frantically moving targeting cones around to combat the swarm of zombies. Your characters can't shoot through objects or each other, so the initial placement is incredibly important. You will undoubtedly have to start a few missions over to get the right placement down, but even after that, you still have to direct them during combat. It's very fun to get this right, especially when you get it just right and you barely have to help at all.

The music is also really good, I was impressed by its ability to really get me into the game, even on the small screen of the iPod. Great job on this one!

Dead Panic Zombie Barricades

What I didn't like: The levels are way too long for their own good. Dead Panic, for better or worse, is set up to be a war of attrition. The game shows you what percentage of zombies you've killed (which oddly never reaches 100%, weird bug), and it usually takes 2-3 kills to increase this by 1% point. This means you're often taking on over 300 staggering, lumbering zombies before you can move on. I feel like this artificially lengthens the game a bit. The developer needs to remember he's developing a portable game: this means I want to play in short bursts as I'm waiting in line or the code is compiling, but levels can take over 10 minutes! This either means 10 minutes of finger-tiring tactics as you constantly move the green cones around to fight off the next wave, or 10 minutes of keeping the iPod from sleeping as your initial tactics were too good and you don't actually need to interact to win. Find the right balance, and we've got a real winner. I wouldn't mind maybe standard and extended length battles, that might be what the game needs.

Well, besides the battles being too long, the game is also short on variety. There were only two different types of zombies along with a zombie crab and a zombie bird (yes, really, zombie crabs and birds!). There are also only two types of soldiers, either guys that wield an assault rifle or guys that wield a sniper rifle. Where's the typical zombie weapons like the shotgun or flamethrower?

Dead Panic also only has 13 levels, since each stage might take around 10 minutes, that is about two hours of gameplay on the campaign, but I feel like it ends too quickly and abruptly. There is a ton of potential but the game doesn't feature enough of those really cool scenarios that will have you wanting to replay them. Sniping on the bridge was my favorite stage, need more like that!

Dead Panic Zombie City Sniper


Gameplay: Plays surprisingly well on the iPhone, but it doesn't try to do too much. Set up you guys, hit play, and point them at the undead. It's a simple concept but is executed better than I expected.

Fun Factor: Levels begin to drag on later in the game now as you get your strategies down pat. I'd often feel like I was "done" with a level and only be 33% of the way through! There's also a survival mode where you have to kill at least 1000 zombies! I did one of these and that lasted a long time, but there's a store feature in this mode allowing you to buy more soldiers or repairs.

Graphics and Sound: The background are static but it's at least easy to tell what are barriers and what aren't. The zombie sprites only have a few frames of animations and it would have been nice to see a little blood and gore as they go down (not sure what Apple approves when it comes to this). The music is above average though but the single assault rifle sound and the single sniper sound begins to grow old after the first stage.

Story: There's a few lines of dialogue between the main characters after every level, but all the typos and grammatical errors made it difficult to understand. The game needs a decent proofread.

Overall: A fun game for very cheap on the App Store, Dead Panic can't be missed by zombie fans. The tactical placement of your soldiers mixes up the genre a bit, but the levels overstay their welcome. Dead Panic needs more variety, which the author promises, but even as of right now the game is fun enough to try out.

Dead Panic Zombie Crab Beach