The walking dead are marching, and only a crack team of zombie hunters can stop them. Operation: Eradicate puts you in charge of up to four specialists as they travel the world, collecting resources and killing zombies. Your job is to coordinate the team members and take advantage of their special abilities to win.
If this sounds familiar to board game fans, there’s a reason. Operation: Eradicate is almost identical to the award-winning 2008 board game Pandemic. It has been rethemed– zombies instead of diseases– and there are small changes to the map, but the original is instantly recognizable.
The game begins with your team in New York City and zombies scattered in cities across the world. Where the zombies are located changes with every game, so each match is different. You take turns moving your specialists– but you only get 24 turns, which keeps the pace quick and forces you to make hard choices.
Where’d I put my magnifying glass?
A specialist gets four actions each turn. Actions include moving between cities, fighting zombies, trading cards, and using a special ability. Each specialist also holds up to seven ‘city resource’ cards, which can be used to move, build airstrips or– once collected into sets of five– ‘stabilize’ an area of the board.
Mastering the special abilities is critical. The Assault Commander is great at killing zombies, so you want him cleaning up the cities. The Logistical Coordinator helps you build up the sets of cards you need. The ‘Tranport Pilot’ (sic) moves other specialists around so they can work together better. Five specialists are available, and each one has a unique role to play.
While you are collecting cards and killing zombies, more zombies enter play. They fill up cities, then spread the infestation to neighboring cities, so it’s easy to assess where trouble is likely to come from next. There’s plenty of trouble, too. The game situation deteriorates quickly from a manageable trickle of zombies to an overwhelming horde. Operation: Eradicate requires both luck and skill to beat. Once the game ends, win or lose, you receive a score based on how much of the world you saved. Scores and achievements are tracked in Game Center.
The game is definitely fun and strategic, but the translation from board game to videogame is flawed. The world map is pretty, but the cities and action icons are downright tiny on an iPhone or iPod Touch screen, and there’s no way to zoom in. It’s easy for clumsy fingers to hit the wrong icon, which can cost you the game. However, the app is universal, and it fares better on an iPad.
Also, basic videogame conveniences are missing: there’s no ‘Game Over’ screen, or animations for card draws or zombie attacks. It’s hard to tell how many turns are left. And although you can play online multiplayer over Game Center, the lack of a chat option makes multiplayer games hard to play, since players can’t coordinate on strategy. There are also some sloppy bugs and typos. Even things like city names and roles are misspelled. Several cities even have paths between them that the team members can’t use.
We’re hopeful that these problems will be fixed in an update, but it seems like Skejo Studios put together the minimum viable product– a board game that mostly works– without hammering out all the bugs, or including the graphic touches that make games like Ticket to Ride such a pleasure to play. That’s a disappointment.
Operation: Eradicate is not for everyone. Gamers who want a visceral zombie-killing experience will be bored by the abstract play and lack of special effects. The game plays well as a single-player puzzle, though, and board game fans will have a lot of fun with it.