Seeing the word “mobile” in a game’s title often means “lower your expectations”. There are a few exceptions, but the difference between Dead Rising and Dead Rising Mobile is like the difference between living in a house and living in a mobile home (with no offense intended to anyone reading this review from their trailer park or National Park campgrounds).
Dead Rising Mobile is consistently disappointing, especially if you’ve enjoyed the console games. In an homage to Dawn of the Dead, you play as photojournalist Frank West as he enters a mall in Willamette, Colorado during a zombie outbreak. Using whatever he can get his hands on, from benches and trash cans to sports supplies and hardware from nearby stores, he has to fight off zombies, level up his stats, and complete missions radioed in to him.
America’s national pastime: baseball, malls, and zombies.
In the console game, these missions include fighting crazed humans, escorting survivors, and uncovering the details of the zombie outbreak. All of that is gone from Dead Rising Mobile, and instead Frank becomes an errand boy who has to complete pointless tasks. These include killing scores of zombies, of course, but also finding lottery tickets, hamburger coupons, and lost shoes and earrings. In other words, absolutely nothing that would help any rational survivor. You just want Frank to say, “Sorry lady, but your lost earring is not worth dying over.”
Guiding you from mission to mission is the most worthless floating arrow we’ve ever seen in a game. If your car’s GPS had Dead Rising Mobile’s guidance system, you’d accidentally drive into a lake because it told you that was the quickest route. The arrow will not-so-helpfully guide you straight into impassible walls instead of helping you through the mall, or point straight up when it should be telling you how to find the stairs.
You can eventually ignore the arrow once you become familiar with the mini-mall’s layout and start relying more on the map. But it’ll take some time, and it still won’t help you on some missions where your objective is randomly placed.
There are more clunky frustrations like this throughout Dead Rising Mobile. You can’t move the camera, so if it spins the wrong way during hectic fights, you’ll have to stand still and give the nearby zombies a biting chance so that the camera will reset. In addition, certain weapons like knives and guns can be hard to come by, but you’ll find plenty of knife and gun-wielding zombies that won’t drop their weapons for you when you kill them.
The frustrations don’t end there. If you try to perform too many special moves, Frank will get hungry. You’ll then have to search for food for him, which takes up precious inventory slots better reserved for weapons. Also, you can only complete so many missions in a day, a confusing limitation for a paid game, but Dead Rising Mobile’s internal clock can be fooled by setting the date and time on your iDevice a day ahead.
The fun moments in Dead Rising Mobile are few and far between. We were pleasantly surprised when we reached a mission objective, only to turn around and find the way blocked by newly-materialized zombies. Dead Rising Mobile also sports an unusual Twitter and Facebook integration, where you can call for help on social networking sites and have your friends come “rescue” you.
The visuals aren’t bad, and there are plenty of zombies everywhere in the mall. We even have to admit, we grinned when we finally got to turn an industrial drill on some zombies and spin them around like a helicopter blade.
But these rare moments are not worth the tedium and frustration of playing this game all the way through. Dead Rising Mobile is far from the best of the App Store zombie games, and we’d recommend using the cash you’d save to rent the console versions instead.