We've all been given advice here and there that in order to do what we want on the road, we must be aggressive drivers. That little nugget of wisdom rings equally true when dealing with disgusting mutants throwing themselves in front of your vehicle. Just gun 'em down. Who cares? They're mutants. At least, that's the attitude Glu Games' Mutant Roadkill inspires as it has you careening down a post-apocalyptic highway lousy with the disgusting creatures that resemble zombies a lot more than they probably should. This fast-paced freemium high-scorer has a lot in common with the extremely similar indie hit Zombie Highway, as we noted in our preview from E3 2012, but it does rely on a few augments to ensure it strays just enough to be appreciated on its own merits. Unfortunately, we weren't as impressed with this iteration of a familiar formula.
From starting up the game you're thrown straight into the action -- a car bursts through a billboard (the loading screen you were looking at previously) and it careens down the highway that's inexplicably littered with mutants, many of which who like to jump on the car and tag along for a ride. When you're not mowing down the shamblers who stumble into your way, you're clipping obstacles along the way to get them off of your car. Get thee away, top-of-the-car drivers! Rack up a chain of roadkill mutants and you'll fill your combo meter. Perform well enough and you'll complete in-game rewards, akin to achievements, which grant you randomly-assigned power-ups like turbo speed, turrets, gold, and other bonuses that should keep you afloat when you've thoroughly destroyed your car and need to start a new run.
Unfortunately, each run isn't exactly smooth sailing. At various points throughout you'll be asked to swipe briefly on-screen while tilting your device to change directions. This didn't feel as fluid as it could have, and didn't seem to serve much of a purpose beyond slowing down an otherwise frenetic race through each area. It would have been preferable to simply tilt the iPad to choose left or right, or not having the option to do so at all to the swiping.
In addition, boost effect that was possible to attain went far too quickly to have any real benefit -- though it plowed through the wreckage in front of the cars easily enough, it became so hard to control the vehicle that many runs were cut short due to excessive crashing. It also appeared toslow the gameplay down a bit, even as it was tested on two different devices. The degree of control without the boost is fantastic, though, and easy enough to learn. It's very simple to jump right in, pick up the device, and play without any fanfare, making it great for a quick download for a long trip or car ride for players with little experience with gaming.
The power-ups such as the turret which allows you to nail mutants zigzagging through the maps were quite useful, as well as the electro-shock and other guns available to double your mutant-slaying productivity. The rewards that are unlocked through performing feats in normal play were a nice addition as well, making it beneficial for you to better previous records and accomplishments in the hopes of opening a chest with a coveted power-up or more gold/currency to purchase an upgraded ride.
Everything is rendered in a cel-shaded style and looks decent on the iPad, but it felt as though more work could have been done on the mutant designs and the voiceovers, which will repeat often and begin to grate on your nerves. Granted it's a free app, but it looks and feels the part as well.
But when it's all said and done there just isn't much to Mutant Roadkill. You tilt the iPad, run over mutants, lather, rinse, and repeat. Coupled with some irritating stuttering on-screen and the seemingly unnecessary swipe mechanics, however, it doesn't rise above its pitfalls and become something greater. It seems to stagnate and hover around the line of mediocrity. With a few improvements and perhaps additional content releases in the future it may be able to rise above the reset, but right now it's idling a little bit too much for it to be considered perfect. It's certainly taking steps to becoming that way, and we'd love to see it improved further.