Welcome to the Death Dome, a bio force field designed to contain a variety of freaks mutated by the dreaded M virus. You take control of Phoenix, a mysterious monster-bashing cutie with a penchant for bloodshed. That's about as deep as the plot gets, and we're just fine with it, because Glu Mobile and Griptonite Games' newest creation is all about beating the snot out of different opponents in a most brutal fashion and collecting tons of loot to upgrade her equipment. This lust for carnage inevitably hits a wall, with in-app purchases or grinding the only ways to advance, but the punishing combat, imaginative creature designs and cell shaded (think Borderlands) graphics kept our interest levels high. Besides, name one other game that lets you pummel enemies with a bubble blower.
Yes, Death Dome is a bit over the top, and all the better for it. The game plays similar to Infinity Blade, as you press left and right arrows to dodge in those respective directions, swipe to parry/attack and tap a shield to block. Not the most original setup, but it works decently enough, thanks in large part to mostly responsive virtual controls and the spectacle that ensues. The developers earn brownie points for the plethora of baddies Phoenix squares off against, from the lizard thing with a mouth for an arm, to a gas mask-wearing brute with a serious case of asthma. You'll even go toe-to-toe with creatures that take up a sizable chunk of screen real estate, which automatically brings to mind those memorable (and cheap) finales in the Marvel vs. Capcom series. The fact that everything resembles a cartoon, but with gallons of blood, makes Death Dome even more appealing, as do Brutal Finishers, pulverizing maneuvers that result in a monster's teeth getting knocked out, or a weapon plunged down its throat. Cute.
Of course, the race to constantly upgrade Phoenix's gear drives the game, and once again, we have to give Griptonite credit for dreaming up some of the more imaginative items we've seen. Weapon-wise, you can slash mutants with a stop sign, beat them with someone else's arm and unleash Rapture with a holy cross. When it comes to shields, a tombstone will suffice, but so does a highway sign, turtle shell and high school locker, complete with some dude's mug and tiny hearts. Finally, we have armor, a series of different costumes that give Phoenix that little something extra. Choices include an animal skull, hockey mask and S.W.A.T. outfit, to name a few.
Naturally, all of this stuff costs virtual cash, or in this case, Skulls. You'll earn these from defeating opponents, but also from the Scavenge mode that pops up right before a fight. Whereas Infinity Blade lets you scan the world at your leisure, here, you must grab as much loot as possible before the next mutant arrives. Sort of kills the whole adventuring aspect, but as you'll soon learn, Death Dome simply isn't that kind of game.
It's actually a shame, in some respects, because we couldn't help but feel this title has a more compelling story to tell, but its creators simply didn't put in the effort. This ultimately puts Death Dome behind other Infinity Blade-style games, most notably Marvel's Avengers Initiative, which leverages its license to help create a more engrossing narrative. Still, and considering it's free, we had some fun stomping a mud hole in different mutants. Not as great as we hoped, but still worth a look.
What's Hot: Cell shaded graphics do a great Borderlands impression, Infinity Blade-inspired combat, punishing finishers, gathering loot to afford the best weapons and shields, free-to-play.
What's Not: The usual freemium grind versus in-app purchase setup, no adventuring per se, razor thin plot.