Tread of the Dead
Can we have a game please where you assume the role of the undead in a world where only zombie game creators have survived? I know I sound grumpy and I'm terribly sorry, but I'm not sure how much more I, or my iPad, can take of the undead. Here's the next in a long line of shuffling titles, and I'm as eager as anyone to find out if Tread of the Dead can manage the impossible and inject some life into the App Store's most over-worked genre.
The game's systems aren't deep but they are enjoyably different from the usual zombie smashing action on the App Store. At the bottom of a long straight road a platoon of zombies approaches. At the top of the screen, the protagonist waits with three different weapons ready to be flung at the horde.
What this basically means is that you have three attempts to clear every last zombie or you'll fail the level. The weapons are satisfyingly chunky and include throat-ripping chainsaws that spin down the screen, turning everything in their path into bloody chunks. Shurikens can be used individually or split into three separate stars so as to spread the damage out. Later, you get access to area-of-effect bombs which take out a number of zombies when detonated.
Two key problems with the game, the severity of which will depend on your own personal preferences. You can only steer your weapons with tilt controls, and the handling is a little fiddly. Secondly (and compounding the first problem), the game is far too dark, and playing in anything other than the most ideal conditions is a dreadful strain. Not good for gaming on the go.
What does go in the game's favor heavily is that there's an awful lot of it. Multiple chapters are stuffed to the brim with varying assault waves. These start out simple enough and consist of little more than tight clusters, but they soon evolve into more complex formations such as dumb-bells , figure-of-eights, and widely spread clusters. Each requires a different strategy from the selection of weapons provided for any particular stage.
Entertaining too are the boss fights, where you need to guide your missiles around objects to strike the prime target, as well as the vehicle sections where there's nothing to do except ram your bonnet into as many undead as possible until your gas runs out. This latter section is gaming at its most primitive, but it provides some much-needed relief from the repetition of the core gameplay.
As you work your way through the chapters of the central Adventure mode, you gradually unlock other game modes, such as the endless Arcade where it's you against an infinite invasion. You'll need to maintain a combo in the Infinisaw mode, and there's more of that zombie-splattering vehicle mayhem in Vehicular.
We'd loved to have seen an alternative to tilt controls on offer in the game, as the precision required to pull off a strategy with any kind of satisfaction is held back by the current controls. You may also find the graphics and sound to be rather basic, but that doesn't stop Tread of the Dead from bringing something new to zombie gaming, and for that we should all be grateful.
What's Hot: A huge number of levels containing satisfying slaughter. The various game modes do a good job of keeping things fresh.
What's Not: The tilt-only controls really hold the game back, and the artwork doesn't play nicely with variable lighting.