We’ve decided: If you’re going to make the millionth tower defense game, you have to bring something new to the table. On the other hand, a great twist isn’t worth much if the basic gameplay doesn’t work well. Cowboys vs Zombies brings a unique concept to this familiar genre, but its game engine just isn’t up to the task.
The twist is this: Instead of a top-down view, you control a 3D camera set just above an Old West town called Undeadwood. You can place your cowboys, which act as turrets, anywhere on nearby roofs or in the street. Zombies stream in from the end of the street, and as you pick them off you’ll earn more bucks to hire additional firepower.
Groan, groan on the range.
So far, so good. But it’s apparent after the brief tutorial that the controls are not up to the task. You can pick up and move a cowboy just about anywhere, but the target that shows where they’ll land bounces erratically as you move over possible positions.
Swiping up and down the screen will move the camera in and out, but you can’t move it up or down, which means some positions will always be out of frame. You can rotate the device to view the action at a slightly different angle, but this isn’t a proper replacement for better camera controls. You’ll also often try to move a cowboy and accidentally move the camera, which can lead to a lot of extra tombstones on Boot Hill.
Red Undead Redemption.
If you want to avoid having your cowboys die, and effectively break the game, there’s a trick to that: Just pick up and move your cowboys constantly. Since you can fly them to any position in town (provided you’re able to pick them up and not move the camera), and zombies will always chase the closest cowboy, you can keep moving your cowboys and spare them the indignity of dying.
Cowboys vs Zombies also contains just six short levels, which is not a very good value for the price. We’re told that OpenFeint will be added soon in an update, but we’d still have to see more levels, modes, or challenges to recommend this game.
It’s too bad that this interesting concept doesn’t receive the proper presentation. It’s clunky to play, often buggy, and isn’t too pretty to look at, either. The Old West is a great setting for a tower defense game, but Cowboys vs Zombies doesn’t do it proper justice.