There’s good news and bad news for the sole survivor of the zombie apocalypse. On the one hand, you’re constantly pursued by ravening undead. On the other, you don’t have to share your ammunition.
Fortunately, the nameless hero of Dead City PLUS does just fine on his own. You’ll take him through 49 side-scrolling levels, with each level representing a day spent blasting zombies and gathering fuel for your car.
There are plenty of zombies to blast. The game starts out with a few shambling office workers, but introduces a new kind of zombie every few levels. You’ll see bird zombies, grandma zombies, policeman zombies and hordes from every other walk of life. Many foes have special attacks, from vomiting radioactive slime into your path to jumping on you from halfway across the screen.
So much blood, even the cars bleed.
Fortunately, you have tricks of your own. The streets are littered with first-aid kits, fuel cans, barrels, and mines. Pick up the kits and cans for power-ups, shoot the barrels to unleash explosions and other zombie-unfriendly effects, and try to guide the zombies chasing you over the mines. Collect enough fuel and you’ll unleash your best weapon: your car drops from the sky and you get in, speeding through the level and crushing zombies under your wheels.
Your strategy remains the same throughout– keep moving, keep shooting, don’t let the zombies touch you– but you’re constantly adjusting your tactics as you play. New enemies loom large when they’re introduced, requiring your full attention. Then they fade to the background and become easy targets as new threats arrive. There’s enough variety that even the early levels remain fresh and challenging when you go back to replay them.
Like many recent games that depend on in-app purchases, Dead City PLUS puts a lot of attention on equipment. You can’t complete levels without regular upgrades to your guns, armor, and cars. The gear looks expensive, since you’ll be paying hundreds of thousands of gold pieces for it by the middle of the game.
Gunning for the lead.
The prices aren’t as high as they seem, though, because the zombies you kill drop a lot of gold. When the game gets difficult, you can earn all the money you need by replaying earlier levels. The PLUS version of the game also gives you 500,000 gold to start out with, and is worth it to give you a leg up on the early levels.
Dead City PLUS also hands out occasional rewards of premium items like defibrillators to resurrect a fallen hero, or airstrikes to bomb out foes. The only thing you can’t play with for free is a selection of special weapons like flamethrowers and lightning guns. At $9.99 each, those are only for the most dedicated fans of the game.
The dual-stick controls work smoothly, and shooting enemies is a breeze. However, the constant scroll of the background makes it difficult to move exactly where you want to. That’s a problem when gathering first aid and fuel. It’s easy to miss your target and steer yourself into a pack of zombies. Since it takes a couple of seconds for a power-up to appear in your life or fuel bar, the delay can be fatal.
That lack of precision is surprising, because the game does so many other little things right. It’s full of careful small touches, like the zombie birds that fall to the ground and start hopping after you when you shoot off their wings. And while we hesitate to call a zombie shooter ‘subtle,’ Dead City PLUS has the craftmanship to keep you challenged and entertained.